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I'm new to Linux and not really sure how the file system works.

When you install a program in Windows, it stores the program's files in the Program Files folder and creates an icon in the Start menu. If I want to create an icon myself, I just search for the exe, as there is usually only one exe file with the program name, and I create a shortcut to launch it.

Could someone explain me what happens when I install a program on Linux? (by running a .deb file) Where does it store the program's files, how can I identify the file I have to run to start the application, and how do I create a shortcut to run it?

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Here is a question I remembered regarding linux shortcuts. It may have some info for you. superuser.com/questions/310498/… –  sealz Jan 13 '12 at 16:06
    
Checking the content of the deb file helps if you can't find the bianry to launch the program, use "dpkg -c example.deb" to list the destination of each files in it. –  Shadok Jan 13 '12 at 16:25

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When you install new programs in *.deb format the synaptic package manager will run a dependency check and install all required files in the package to your system. Depending on what kind of package it is and what type of files it has, the files will be placed in different directories. To see where the different files reside in your filesystem after installation, you can open synaptic and right-click the package + details to see what files are in it. Executable files in a package often reside in directories with bin in their path e.g. /bin, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin, /usr/local/sbin, /usr/sbin where / means the root directory - the parent to all directories in your filesystem.

Inspect your environmental PATH variable on what directories are searched for executables whenever you execute a program. Start a terminal with Alt+F2 and type in xterm, hit Enter and issue:

$ echo $PATH

To create a shortcut launcher for the installed application, make sure it has an associated *.desktop file, usually residing in /usr/share/applications/. You should then be able to right-click your desktop and select something like "create launcher", providing the path to the application if it's not in the list.

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Since *nix doesn't use file extensions on binaries it's much harder to use that method to find your program. However, most of the time newly installed programs are placed in a location that puts them on the PATH. If that's the case, using where {program} from the command line should tell you where it's located.

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Shortcuts are a whole different story depending on your display manager, though. –  Rob Jan 13 '12 at 15:56

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