How to Add App Icons to the Desktop in Ubuntu 24.04

Last updated: June 23, 2024 — 3 Comments

Want to send your application shortcut icons onto desktop, so you can click them to launch the corresponding apps? This simple tutorial is going to show you how to do the job in Ubuntu 24.04 with default GNOME Desktop.

As far as I know, there are 2 ways to easily add your app icons to the desktop in Ubuntu. They include:

  • Manually drag and drop the associated .desktop file on to desktop, add executable permission, and enable allow launching.
  • Another way is using an extension, which adds “Add to Desktop” context menu option to your app icons.

Method 1: Manually add app icon to the Desktop

The app icons in most Linux desktop are handled by .desktop config files. The files are mostly saved in the following locations:

  • /usr/share/applications – for apps installed via native .deb package.
  • /var/lib/flatpak/app/xxx.xxx.xxx(app-ID)/current/active/export/share/applications for Flatpak apps.

By drag’n’dropping one of the .desktop file from the location above, add executable permission, and select “Allow Launching” context menu option will pin the associated app icon to the desktop.

Below, I’m going to show you how to do the trick step by step by using Audacious audio player as example:

1. First, launch “Files” (aka Nautilus file manager). Go to “Other Locations” in left, then navigate to Ubuntu -> usr -> share -> applications. There, you can see the most app icons installed through native .deb packages.

.desktop files for app icons

2. Find out, and drag and drop the .desktop file for your app, from that folder to the desktop. Then, you’ll see the corresponding app icon appears on the desktop, though it’s grayed out with a cross-mark emblem.

3. Next, right-click on that grayed out app icon on the desktop. Click “Properties” and enable “Executable as Permission” toggle option. Finally, right-click on that icon again and select “Allow Launching“.

That’s it! You can re-do the last 3 steps again and again to add other app icons.

Method 2: Use Gnome Shell Extension

To make life easier, there’s an extension can help by adding “Add to Desktop” option to context menu of app icons in app grid or overview search result.

At the moment of writing, the extension supports GNOME from version 3.28 to 46 Beta.

For Ubuntu 23.10, Ubuntu 22.04 and earlier, launch either App Center or Ubuntu Software. Then use it to search and install the “Extension Manager” app.

Install Extension Manager in Ubuntu Software/App Center

Then, use “Extension Manager” app to search & install the Add to Desktop extension. If the app does NOT show you the extension, try changing filter from “Popularity” to another.

For Ubuntu 24.04, Extension Manager will tell you the extension is NOT supported so far. In the case, you may follow the steps below one by one to install it from source.

1. First, go to the Github project page, and download the source for GNOME 46:

2. Then, install the downloaded Zip archive by doing the following steps one by one:

  • First open your Downloads folder, and click extract the Zip archive.
  • Open another folder, press Ctrl+H and navigate to .local/share/gnome-shell/extensions.
  • Drag and drag the extracted folder from “Downloads” to .local/share/gnome-shell/extensions.
  • Re-name that extension folder to “[email protected]

Tips: create “extensions” sub-folder if it’s not exist under .local/share/gnome-shell directory.

3. Next, click edit the metadata.json file under the extension folder, and replace “46.beta” with “46” as supported Shell versions.

4. After saving the file. Log out and back in. Finally, launch “Extension Manager” (install from App Center), and turn on the “Add to Desktop” extension.

Finally, either go to app grid or search your app from Gnome overview screen, right-click on app icon and use the new “Add to Desktop” context menu option to do the job adding app icon to the desktop.

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I'm a freelance blogger who started using Ubuntu in 2007 and wishes to share my experiences and some useful tips with Ubuntu beginners and lovers. Please comment to let me know if the tutorial is outdated! And, notify me if you find any typo/grammar/language mistakes. English is not my native language. Contact me via [email protected] Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/ubuntuhandbook1

3 responses to How to Add App Icons to the Desktop in Ubuntu 24.04

  1. Gabor Fericsan May 24, 2024 at 6:39 am

    It should be updated, it’s not right in many places

  2. running ubuntu 24.04LTS using Linux 5.15.0-105-generic kernel and I get all the way thru including the gseting part and the Add to Desktop is grayed out – cutting it ‘on’ is still gray and doesn’t work…

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