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Using a terminal, I can change the running user with su and sudo — but how can I do that by clicking on an icon/shortcut on the desktop/start menu?

If I have to be root to execute I will be asked anyway, but some programs e.g. Krusader and NetBeans sometimes run without root access but then you can't accomplish what you want.

On Windows I simply hit shift and rightclick on it and am prompted for user and password. I guess there is a similarly simple way to do that in Debian as well. (Apart from workarounds like creating scripts such as sudo xyz.)

Thanks in advance!

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

First off, don't use sudo or su to change users to run a graphical process, or you're liable to have problems down the line (~/.ICEauthority changing owner is a notable issue). Instead, create a shortcut that uses the following command:

gksu -u [user] command

gksu launches a graphical prompt for the user's password, and upon entering the correct password, launch the application as the user specified.

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