I have a .desktop file to start a python program in a specific conda environment, like this:

[Desktop Entry]
GenericName=Web Browser
Comment=View and edit files
Exec=bash -c "source /vol/home/kaipingga/anaconda3/bin/activate qutebrowser; qutebrowser"

This used to work, but I tweaked my python environment recently.

Now, in a terminal the same command

$ bash -c "source /vol/home/kaipingga/anaconda3/bin/activate qutebrowser; qutebrowser"

runs the application, but the .desktop file does not. How do I find out due to what error that is?

My other .desktop files run fine, I assume something goes wrong with my Python environment, which is quite hackish for the moment (which is the main reason to run this in a dedicated conda environment to start with).

Zachary Brady originally suggested (but there are issues) xdg-open might run .desktop files, but it gives me a message box saying


Failed to add a plugin to the panel

No running instance of xfce4-panel was found

both for this .desktop and for another one that otherwise works. (I'm running plain Ubuntu, no xfce).

  • I deleted my answer after reading more into it xdg-open has been bugged for quite a while and only opens the desktop icons in text editors... Oct 27, 2016 at 15:05
  • It turns out that the problem was an unsubstituted ~ (appearing as “~”, not as “/home/anaphory”) in the Python path, which I found out by adding env > check; in the middle of the command. But I'm sure there is a better way to debug this!
    – Anaphory
    Oct 27, 2016 at 15:23
  • Desktop files are executed via menus, panels, or file managers. Which one are you using? Aug 10, 2020 at 14:30

4 Answers 4


You can also use the validation tool desktop-file-validate to find more problems.

(see also: How to validate/verify .desktop files?)

# Result for your example
$ desktop-file-validate qutebrowser.desktop 
test.desktop: hint: value "Network;Utility;X-Python;" for key "Categories"
in group "Desktop Entry" contains more than one main category; application
might appear more than once in the application menu

I normally add the following to see what is being executed:


On Linux Mint, the File Manager service is named nemo, nemo can be exited by issuing:

nemo -q

With your file manager stopped, you can open it in a terminal


It will now print its log to this terminal, when you go to open your *.desktop file, you should be able to see the stdout of your *.desktop's Exec line.

  • Oh, and when your done debugging, Ctrl+C the terminal running nemo, and open it via your start menu, or relog your desktop session. Mar 23, 2017 at 2:14

xdg-open and exo-open are used for opening files (in their respective associated program). They were never meant to execute anything on their own. For executing the command defined by a desktop, you may use dex.

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