I have an application that I start only from the command line. How can I add the command (and preferably a nice logo) to Gnome's application menu?


5 Answers 5


In GNOME and other freedesktop.org-compliant desktop environments, such as KDE and Unity, applications are added to the desktop's menus or desktop shell via desktop entries, defined in text files with the .desktop extension (referred to as desktop files). The desktop environments construct menus for a user from the combined information extracted from available desktop entries.

Desktop files may be created in either of two places:

  • /usr/share/applications/ for desktop entries available to every user in the system
  • ~/.local/share/applications/ for desktop entries available to a single user

You might need to restart GNOME for the new added applications to work.

Per convention, desktop files should not include spaces or international characters in their name.

Each desktop file is split into groups, each starting with the group header in square brackets ([]). Each section contains a number of key, value pairs, separated by an equal sign (=).

Below is a sample of desktop file:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Application Name
Comment=Application description


  • [Desktop Entry] the Desktop Entry group header identifies the file as a desktop entry
  • Type the type of the entry, valid values are Application, Link and Directory
  • Encoding the character encoding of the desktop file
  • Name the application name visible in menus or launchers
  • Comment a description of the application used in tooltips
  • Icon the icon shown for the application in menus or launchers
  • Exec the command that is used to start the application from a shell.
  • Terminal whether the application should be run in a terminal, valid values are true or false
  • Categories semi-colon (;) separated list of menu categories in which the entry should be shown

Command line arguments in the Exec key can be signified with the following variables:

  • %f a single filename.
  • %F multiple filenames.
  • %u a single URL.
  • %U multiple URLs.
  • %d a single directory. Used in conjunction with %f to locate a file.
  • %D multiple directories. Used in conjunction with %F to locate files.
  • %n a single filename without a path.
  • %N multiple filenames without paths.
  • %k a URI or local filename of the location of the desktop file.
  • %v the name of the Device entry.

Note that ~ or environmental variables like $HOME are not expanded within desktop files, so any executables referenced must either be in the $PATH or referenced via their absolute path.

A full Desktop Entry Specification is available at the GNOME Dev Center.

Launch Scripts

If the application to be launched requires certain steps to be done prior to be invoked, you can create a shell script which launches the application, and point the desktop entry to the shell script. Suppose that an application requires to be run from a certain current working directory. Create a launch script in a suitable to location (~/bin/ for instance). The script might look something like the following:

pushd "/path/to/application/directory"
./application "$@"

Set the executable bit for the script:

$ chmod +x ~/bin/launch-application

Then point the Exec key in the desktop entry to the launch script:

  • I did that, I can see the icon under applications, but when I click the app does not start, the cursor only changes to a loading symbol for a few seconds. No error message.
    – mart
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 8:49
  • @mart Can you tell us which application you are trying to add a launcher for? Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 11:21
  • 1
    FTL - an indie game I bought somewhere on the web. Starting from Console works.
    – mart
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 15:12
  • 2
    @mart <path>/.FTL would point to a hidden file called .FTL, which is not the same as ./FTL, which points to a file called FTL in the current directory. You can try to launch FTL via /full/path/path/to/FTL in a terminal to see if you get any meaningfull error output. For instance, if the executable searches for libraries in the current working directory, you might have to do a launcher script which does something along the lines of pushd <path>; ./FTL; popd and point the Exec specifier in the desktop file to the launcher script instead. Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 16:35
  • 1
    correction: it works from inside the directory
    – mart
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 20:36

Very good answer from Thomas Nyman.

Gnome comes with gui tool gnome-desktop-item-edit assisting in creating *.desktop files. We need to use it from command line, or create a desktop file for it.

Instructions to make Gnome Application from gnome-desktop-item-edit

  1. Open terminal windows and type the following command:

    gnome-desktop-item-edit --create-new /home/[your user name]/.local/share/applications
  2. In the opened window fill the following:


Name: Gnome Applicaiton

Command: gnome-desktop-item-edit --create-new /home/[your user name]/.local/share/applications

Click on the icon to select a different icon.

  1. Click OK to close the windows

  2. Close the terminal window

Testing newly generated Gnome Application

  1. Open dash
  2. Type Application
  3. You should see the Gnome Application entered before
  4. Select it
  5. Create another application

To create for all users use:

sudo gnome-desktop-item-edit --create-new /usr/share/applications

If the command is missing on debian/ubuntu try:

sudo apt-get install gnome-panel 
  • 2
    This works really well, thanks. Is there any way to alter which menu the new application appears in ? Mine appeared in Applications->Other
    – SteveP
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:37
  • 4
    That command is unavailable in Ubuntu 19.10. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 16:06
  • 2
    This command is also unavailable in CentOS 8, has it been deprecated? Or is there a way to somehow install this package?
    – hpy
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 21:27
  • 3
    It seems the command is removed (since 3.32?) askubuntu.com/q/1184733 gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/gnome-panel/commit/…
    – hashlash
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 3:20
  • Is there any alternative after @hashlash's finding? There's neither a gnome-desktop-item-edit nor a gnome-panel to sudo yum install on RHEL 4.18. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 15:12

A graphical solution is to install MenuLibre

It is available for Ubuntu-flavored distributions via

apt install menulibre

or you can install it from source

It allows to categorize apps per Gnome categories and plays well with Chrome apps.

Menu Libre

  • This should be the best answer
    – hungson175
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 2:47
  • by far much simpler than the most upvoted answers
    – Emilien
    Commented Jul 12 at 8:57

The previous answers from Thomas Nyman and Dudi Boy are very good and detailed. I am posting this because I didn't found a answer for my doubt in any other posts and I had to search in git issues.

After I followed the steps like Thomas Nyman suggested I have been able to make the icon for my program to appear in the App Menu. The problem here is that I use Dash to Dock as side bar and I could not pin the icon as a favourite like other icons. After searching I found that you need to add the line StartupWMClass=ApplicationName in .desktop file. After that the option to add to favourites will appear by right clicking on the icon in Dash to Dock.


In my case for AndroidStudio.

Stay on the location ~

vi .local/share/applications/androidstudio.desktop

Then add the configuration

[Desktop Entry]
Version=2022.3.1 Patch 2
Name=Android Studio
Comment=Android Studio for linux
Exec=sh /home/mariot/Downloads/android-studio-2022.3.1.20-linux/android-studio/bin/studio.sh

Set grants with the command:

gio set .local/share/applications/androidstudio.desktop "metadata::trusted" yes

Then if all the paths are corrects you could test with:

gio launch .local/share/applications/androidstudio.desktop 

You could launch the application since the search launcher.


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