Miskatonic University Press

Custom GNOME launchers


I learned something useful about GNOME recently: how to add my own launchers. I’m running Ubuntu on a ThinkPad that has a Windows key that Linux and Unix people call a Super key. When I tap Super, it calls up the activities overview, where I can search applications, settings, files, Unicode characters, or other things. Here’s what it looks like if I search for fi:

Seaching for 'fi'
Seaching for 'fi'

Firefox and Files make sense. Not only do I not know why Remmina showed, this is the first time I’ve heard of it. Could be useful, though.

Now, the two applications I use most frequently but run from downloaded tarballs, not as proper packages, are Zotero and the Tor browser. They’re set up in /usr/local/src/, and I have aliases in place so it’s easy to start them running with one command in a shell.

Both come with .desktop files that I can move to my desktop and use as launchers, but it’s much nicer to be able to hit Super-letter-letter-letter-RET and fire up what I want. I can do that for gPodder, for example. Super-g-p-o-RET and it launches.

Turns out if I put the .desktop file in ~/.local/share/applications/ then GNOME will see it and it becomes launchable. I had to tweak file paths for both, but now they work nicely. The Zotero one looks like this:

[Desktop Entry]
Exec=bash -c "/usr/local/src/zotero/Zotero_linux-x86_64/zotero -url %U"

Super-z-o-RET and it launches.

I made one so I can pop up an expense spreadsheet I use regularly. Here LibreOffice points directly to a particular file.

[Desktop Entry]
Exec=bash -c "libreoffice ~/finance/expenses.ods"

It looks like this in the activities overview:

Expenses launcher
Expenses launcher

There’s more about this in the offical Desktop Entry Specification but really as long as you have three or four lines it’ll work.