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How to Add a Program to the Ubuntu Startup List (After Login)

If you are coming from Windows, you are probably familiar wtih adding a shortcut to the Startup folder in the Start menu so that the program will start after you log in.

Ubuntu provides a little utility to help you accomplish the same thing, but it’s not named quite what you’d think, so you may not have found this.

And yes, for the more technical users, you can modify the startup script and accomplish the same thing.

You’ll find the tool on the System \ Preferences\ Sessions menu item:

Click the Add button, and type in the full path to the executable you are trying to start if it’s not in your path already. For instance, if you wanted to start the vmware toolbox, you’d put in vmware-toolbox into the textbox. You can also browse directly to the item you want to start.

Tested on: Ubuntu Edgy Eft

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/29/06

Comments (43)

  1. Ravindran K

    Thats a really coool tip ..thanks :)

  2. O Butler

    The relating the windows startup folder to this tool was a good approach. It help me find this answer.

    Thanks!

  3. Kevin

    This was very helpful. Thanks!

  4. Kostas

    Do you happen do know how can somenone do this in Kubuntu?

    Thanx in advance.

  5. Kostas

    Never mind, I found it. There are to options: a) You can add a link in ~/.kde/Autostart/ to the desired app, or
    b) KDE in Kubuntu is configured to load the previous session, so you could as well leave the app open when you exit KDE and it will be launched automatically.

  6. sazwqa

    I wonder if anybody has tried doing the same using startup scripts, can anybody post a solution here ?

  7. arya

    thanx a lot

  8. Dangerous Dan

    Thanks for the KDE solution Kostas.

  9. Jim Edwards

    thanks! I never seem to remember this.

  10. ant

    Thank you very much, this is a very helpful tip

  11. Jon Ramvi

    There’s also a startup directory, as in Windows and KDE:
    http://www.jonramvi.com/2008/08/customize-ubuntu-gnome-livecd-startup-autostart-directory/

  12. rdcatman

    What? I see you need to be a rocket scientist to use Ubuntu. To me this would be one of
    the main areas that you would want to operate without confusion (adding a program), instead
    you need a roadmap in Ubuntu to do so.

    How about some of you guys who understand how to install programs making videos that can be posted somewhere where people new to Ubuntu can find them. It is easier to follow video instructions than a description writen in Geek.

    If this operating system is going to catch on this is one of the main areas that need to change, otherwise people will stay with Microsoft Windows.

  13. İsmail Arı

    Thanks a lot.

  14. Josir

    But if I have to run the script as root ? Will this procedure work too ?

  15. Rich

    @rdcatman

    Go back to using Windows please.

  16. Jim

    I hate to, but I need further help- using standard add/remove in ubuntu 8.10, I’ve added gmail notifier and I like the tomboy notetaker as well- but when i try to add them to the startup as described here, my problem is I cant find the program to link it to.

    I’ll admit, im a recent windows convert, so I prolly just don’t know what I am looking for. But What do I need to put into the second box down in sessions/add- the one that says command. If I try to browse, i just cant find what I’m looking for.

    Thanks in advance, and sorry for the nub question.

  17. Josir

    Hi Jim, there are no nub questions in Linux/Ubuntu world. We all try to help each other from the newbie to the expert.

    To find where a program is locate, enter on console and type:

    whereis tomboy

    and put the fullpath on the program field.

    Another option that few people use is the gnome panel. Right-click on the top panel and select “add to panel” – there are a lot of programs you can put on the startup, including tomboy.

  18. Jim

    Very Very useful, Thanks, and I apprecaite it- that did the trick and using that made it all the way to what I was trying.

    Thanks again Josir.

  19. Tom

    Hm.. for me it was not enough to leave checkbox unchecked for Transmission, it started again after reboot, i had to remove Transmission completely from the list.
    Ubuntu 8.04.
    Thanks anyway.

  20. ElBruce

    I’m a new Windows convert too. I found that if you need to find out what the command line is, go to Applications > (your program) and right-click on the program you want, then choose “add this launcher to desktop.” That’s like a shortcut. Then right-click the launcher it creates, choose “preferences” and it’ll show you the command line to activate the program. Copy that and paste it into the startup program you’re adding to the session manager.

  21. Manjunatha

    Thanks. It is very help full

  22. idodialog

    Not any more!
    In Jaunty: System -> Preferences -> Startup Applications
    gives you a very straightforward UI for adding Start-Ups

  23. Satish

    How do i add my drives to ubuntu start up??
    They wont start until i click them.

  24. Jim

    Howdy Satish- to add drives to ubuntu startup- (you want them to auto mount each time the computer reboots I assume). They must be NTFS- since other drives do auto mount typically (if I am wrong, just let me know).

    So- assuming they are NTFS drives and you want them to automount at startup, you can install “NTFS Configuration Tool” (in the add/remove programs) and then use that to tell it what drives to automount. It makes the needed changes to your fstab file to do your work for you.

    I hope this helps,

    jim

  25. arielCo

    For those of you used to copying link files to a directory, the extension is .desktop and you’ll find most available ones in /usr/share/applications.

    I found .desktop links to my current startup apps in /etc/xdg/autostart/ , /usr/share/gnome/autostart/ and ~/.config/autostart/. You may want to copy your links to the last directory as the other two are system-wide; in Nautilus, you can choose “Show hidden files (Ctrl+H)”.

  26. Carlos

    Hi everyone.

    Does anyone where is the file in which Startup Programas write every command? This is the situation: I have no physical access to the server, I’m over ssh but I need to edit one of the commands that where setup to run at startup and I can’t find the file.

    Thanks in advance!

  27. psb

    @ Rich

    That kind of response is exactly why people like me despise people like you. We are not all programmers and Linux admin experts. People like me have spent 20+ years using an OS that has basically taken the tedium out of using a computer which has been to both our benifit and detriment. Now some of us are trying to use Linux but we find it unapproachable because experts like you tell us how to do things in cryptic technospeak and then when we dont get it you tell us to go away.

    Fine, I will. Because of people like you, Linux will never be anything more than it is. Until the Linux world realizes that it needs to come down a little in order to pick up the non technical (but willing to learn) user, it will always be “just that other O/S”.

  28. James Bond

    @psb

    ‘Until the Linux world realizes that it needs to come down a little in order to pick up the non technical (but willing to learn) users, it will always be “just that other O/S”

    Just because you can not get a custom startup WITH a gui does that mean you can despise people like me? I despise people like you, you need to do learn how to use your computer, or “Google”. You do not need to be a Linux expert or a programmer to do something so simple, you are not the only person to customize your startup and now you bash people who can get Linux working?
    You should appreciate the development of open source and Linux in the past years to make your ‘non-technical’ life easier. Do you think these guys get paid to spend countless hours coding/programming/bugging? My advice to you… go read a book or maybe BUY a book or two, sit down for a good hour and READ a little!

    ‘Now some of us are trying to use Linux but we find it unapproachable because experts like you tell us how to do things in cryptic technospeak and then when we dont get it you tell us to go away.’

    Whatever ‘cryptic technospeak’ is, this guide is far from it.. seeing as this program actually has a GUI, more commonly known to the technospeakers as a frontend.

    ‘Linux will never be anything more than it is.’

    I am not sure what you are getting at but clearly you know nothing about Linux, or open source in general.. willing to learn.. yeah okay.

  29. ksprs

    Tnx! =]

  30. Lloyd Summers

    @author

    Great article thank you!

    @arielCo

    Thats exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately I still havent found what I needed – there must be one last startup script or folder I need to find (rogue program running at startup that I dont want to). But great info thank you.

    @Psb

    You need to be open minded when you are learning a new OS. Right from the start of the thread you were attacking the Linux OS and its developers – which triggered the response. Remember, if you make a statement and its ‘taken the wrong way’ – that is a communication failure on your part not the part of all the listeners in the conversation.

    @Rich

    I read the above comments carefully – PSB attacked Linux in general so I’m not surprised they got the answer they did. I didn’t find your comments offensive in anyway :)

  31. Necromancer_420

    @Lloyd Summers
    “I need to find (rogue program running at startup that I dont want to).”

    Check to see if you have any saved sessions of that program in:
    ~/.config/session-state
    or
    /.config/gnome-session/saved-session

    Most likely will be the first of the two… Was plagued with this same problem at the beginning of my Linux “career”.

  32. Chraw

    maybe you should add the ubuntu version. At the current version (10.04) the startup list is found at system/preferences/startup-applications.

  33. Havoc

    Hi Great tutorial, I use Ubuntu 10.04, and to access the startup apps, just go to System-Preferences-Startup Applications.

    @ElBruce ThX for the tip.

  34. Sam

    I have started using conky. I know that it has to be started by enetring “conky” at the terminal. But, how do I implement it in the startup? I couldn’t find any command that I could write in the path to start conky at the startup! There must be something. Please help!!!

  35. Sam

    I think I found it. Maybe I should just type Conky in the text box for command. Didn’t try that yet. I’ll restart now.

  36. Sam

    It’s working. But it’s covering up my panels and it’s always staying on top of all my running programs. How do I push it to the back????

  37. newguy

    you can try to add “&” at end
    also this kind of stuff can be done by editing .profile : adding at end what do you want to do but with & at end so it can initialiaze rest of process too

    And ofcourse are other methods far mor elegants but for sistem administrators

  38. Carlos

    Sessions is not listed in System/Preferences in my Ubuntu 10.04 install. How do I add the functionality?

  39. Basilis

    @Carlos
    i am also with 10.04 and didn’t find the “sessions”, but then i improvized with “Startup Applications” [[thanx Josir for the whereis command – i have been wondering long time how to give command for run program..]] and it worked super!

    @all the linux-freaks: thankyou so much for being! i totally appreciate every piece of help and contribution offered.

    ..and (@)psb, whenever i don’t understand the tech-language (which happens quite often..), then i keep on searching, i am triggered to read and find out what the linux-freak is trying to tell me in a language that is very comprehensible to him/her, but not to me poor newbie/absolute basic user (who will most probably never get sooo deep into it so as to understand every expression [with any language it is the same…])

  40. virupaksha

    how to do it everything in command line??

  41. virupaksha

    i have a script file n want to run it when i login.. i don’t want to use GUI .. i want to trick my friend so,..
    Is der a way to edit some file n run our script at startup

  42. kaizer

    how to run java file like cafepilot in startup applications in ubuntu10.04

  43. saimon

    oh!! thanx

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