How-To Geek

Create Desktop Shortcuts in Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10


Creating desktop shortcuts in versions of Ubuntu prior to 11.04 was as easy as right-clicking on the desktop and creating a launcher. However, now, you must install extra packages and then run a special command to create a shortcut.

We will show you how to install the required packages and how to create a shortcut.

To begin installing the required packages, press Ctrl + Alt + T to open a Terminal window. Type the following command at the prompt and press Enter.

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends gnome-panel

NOTE: Make sure to enter two dashes before “no” in the above command.

The “–no-install-recommends” option makes sure that only the required packages and no recommended packages get installed. This saves space on your hard drive.

Enter your password when prompted.


Messages telling you what packages will be installed and how much disk space will be used display. When asked if you want to continue, type a “Y” (without the quotes) and press Enter.


When the installation is done, you can create a new shortcut using the command line. Type the following command at the prompt and press Enter.

gnome-desktop-item-edit --create-new ~/Desktop

NOTE: Make sure there are two dashes before create, not one.


The Create Launcher dialog box displays. When creating shortcuts to programs, make sure Application is selected from the Type drop-down list. It should be the default selection.

Enter a name for the shortcut in the Name edit box. Enter the command with the full path to start the program in the Command edit box. You can also use the Browse button to select the command. Most programs program executables are installed into the /usr/bin directory. If desired, you may enter a description for the shortcut in the Comment edit box. However, a  Comment is not required. Click OK to create the shortcut.


Because you opened the Create Launcher dialog box from a command prompt, you are returned to the prompt when the dialog box closes. To close the Terminal window, type “exit” (without the quotes) at the prompt and press Enter.


The shortcut displays on the desktop allowing you to double-click on it to open the program, just like you would use shortcuts on a Windows desktop to open programs.


You can also create shortcuts by pressing Alt + F2, entering the command listed above in the edit box, and pressing Enter. The Create Launcher dialog box displays as shown above and you can create another shortcut.


You can also add shortcuts on your desktop to the Unity launcher by dragging and dropping them onto the launcher.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 02/24/12

Comments (10)

  1. Ford Prefect

    I really do hate what they have done with Ubuntu. At least it is nice and open so you can put it back how you want, but what were they thinking?

  2. Cam2644

    Interesting that so many articles appear advising users how to bring back lost features in Ubuntu. Conical are aiming at screen touch and phone systems which they see as the future. To keep a more flexible and user friendly desktop users are probably better off with Linux Mint (with their promising Cinnamon) or a KDE Linux.

  3. nathan

    Or you can do it the easy way. Open the application panel… (the thing you can search for applications with) search for your desired application then drag the icon to the desktop…

  4. fvalcalde

    I agree with @nathan, you can open the dash, search for the aplication you want to place on the desktop, and then simply drag it from the dash, a shortcut will be created. Nevertheless is good to know more than one way to do it.

  5. dj_palindrome

    I don’t really blame either Ubuntu or Debian for merely regurgitating whatever slop they are handed from upstream (i.e. GNOME), although I am disappointed by both of them for not more aggresively pushing back on behalf of users.

    The inability to right-click and create a launcher from the context menu was recently removed (I believe in GNOME 3.2).

    The clueless “head-up-the arse” GNOME organization are doubtless congratulating themselves that this respresents “enhancing the user experience”.

  6. Trudy

    Didn’t know you couldn’t do it! Always done it Nathan’s way

  7. ejmfoley

    When I tried this, the dialog box that comes up only has the name and comment fields, no type or command fields. Terminal message says create-new does not have a .desktop or .directory suffix.

  8. mdsamp89

    cool stuff

  9. Steve

    ejmfoley – I had the same error – then realised the fix – before the word “create” there are two dashes – for some reason, when you copy and paste this command into the terminal you only get one dash – so copy and paste the whole, long command then delete the dash that’s there and put two back in. Like this:

    gnome-desktop-item-edit –create-new ~/Desktop – WRONG

    should read..

    gnome-desktop-item-edit–create-new ~/Desktop – CORRECT

    See the difference?

  10. buri

    Thank you. It helped me to create shortcut remotelly through ssh

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