In this short tutorial, you’ll learn how to add application shortcuts to the desktop in Ubuntu and other distributions that use the GNOME desktop.

Classic desktop operating systems always have icons on the “desktop screen”. These desktop icons may include a file manager, trash bin, and application shortcut.

When installing applications on Windows, some programs ask if you want to create a shortcut on the desktop. On Linux, this is not the case.

But if you’re a fan of this feature, let me show you how you can add shortcuts to your favorite applications to your desktop in Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.

Adding a desktop shortcut in Ubuntu

Personally, I prefer Ubuntu Launcher for application shortcuts. If I use the program often, I add it to the launchpad. But I know that not everyone has the same preferences, and some people prefer desktop shortcuts.

Let’s look at the easiest way to create an application shortcut on the desktop.

This instruction has been tested on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS with the GNOME desktop.

In the new version of Ubuntu 20.04, after installation there are already icons on the desktop, such as: Home folder and recycle bin, so no additional steps are required on your part.

Now is the time to add application shortcuts to the desktop.

Step 1. Locate .desktop application files.

To do this, go to File Manager -> Other Places -> Computer.

Next, go to the usr -> share -> applications directory. You will see the icons of several Ubuntu applications that you once installed. Even if you do not see the icon, you should see .desktop files called application.desktop.

application.desktop application.desktop

Step 2. Copy the .desktop file to the desktop.

Now all you have to do is find the icon of the application that you want to see and run from the desktop. But there is one problem – unfortunately, in the latest version of Ubuntu, you can’t just copy a file by dragging and dropping, or by pressing Ctrl + C. You need to right-click on the file and select “Copy” in the context menu

copy on desktop

And then, do the same on the desktop. Right-click and select “Paste”

paste on desktop

Step 3: Run the Desktop File

When you are done, you should see a text file type icon on the desktop instead of the application logo. Do not worry, in a moment everything will change.

run shortcut

What you need to do is right-click on the file and select “Allow Launch” in the context menu

The application will start as usual, and you will also notice that the .desktop file has now turned into the application icon. I suppose you like application shortcuts, right?

Application Shortcuts

If you don’t like a particular application launcher on your desktop, just select it and delete it. Only the shortcut will be deleted, but the application will remain on your system.

I hope this quick tip has been helpful, and now you can enjoy the application shortcuts on the Ubuntu desktop.

If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below.