Create Application Launchers in GNOME 3

I often need to create custom application launchers for games, my own shell scripts, or to launch programs with specific command-line options. As such, I have written Desktop Entry Editor to make it easy to create and edit user-defined application launchers.

Application launchers are simple text files with a .desktop extension that conform to the Desktop Entry Specification. For user-defined application launchers, the ideal location to save these desktop entries is in ~/.local/share/applications.

Download and Install Desktop Entry Editor

Desktop Entry Editor can be installed using the typical configure && make && make install procedure.

Download the latest release from the Downloads Page and then run:

tar -xzf desktop-entry-editor-x.x.x.tar.gz
cd desktop-entry-editor-x.x.x

Note: replace x.x.x with the version number from the file you downloaded.

Become root user (su) and then run:

make install

Create the Custom Application Launcher

For the sake of example, I'll create a launcher for the "Connect to Server" dialog found in the file browser.

Fire up Desktop Entry Editor. The list on the left-hand side shows all of the application launchers for which you have write permissions (it is blank if you have not yet created any custom launchers).

Select File > New from the menu. A Save File dialog should appear with the Save In Folder already set to ~/.local/share/applications. Name the file connect-to-server.desktop.

  • Set 'Name' to "Connect to Server".
  • Set 'Icon' to "server". Notice how the icon in the text entry changes as you enter a valid icon name. You could also enter a full path to a .png or .svg file. You can click the icon to preview how the icon renders at various sizes.
  • Set 'Execute' to "nautilus-connect-server". You can click the execute icon to verify that the command can be executed.

Before you save the launcher you can validate it with Tools > Validate.

Save the launcher with File > Save.

You should now be able to search "connect" in the GNOME Shell Overview and find the launcher. If you want you can drag and drop it onto the dash or dock for quick access.

Note: If you do not see your launcher in the Overview, try restarting the shell with ALT+F2, type r and hit enter

Creating an application launcher to connect to a server

Connect to server in GNOME Shell Overview

Specifying a Category for your Launcher

While the launcher shows up in an Overview search just fine, it's listed under "Other" in the 'Applications' section of the Overview. This is because the application menus are built based on a Category sepcified in the desktop entry launcher. For the "Connect to Server", the category Network is a good choice.

In the 'Advanced' tab of Desktop Entry Editor you can specify the category by double-clicking the column next to 'Category' and typing in "Network".

Specify a category for an application launcher

Now the launcher will show up under "Internet" in the Overview Applications tab.

For a description of all of the keys available in the 'Advanced' tab of Desktop Entry Editor, see Recognized desktop entry keys.

Did you enjoy Create Application Launchers in GNOME 3? If you would like to help support my work, A donation of a buck or two would be very much appreciated.
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