I'm pretty new to Linux in general and I'm curious how the programs I install with apt get shortcuts in the Show Applications menu. Additionally, I would like to learn how to add my own application to the menu. Which directory manages the shortcuts in the Applications menu?

I'm using Ubuntu 17.10.

  • Edit: Added Ubuntu version number to title. I realize this might be a duplicate question in regards to other OS's, but none of the other solutions I've found have worked for Ubuntu 17, though I'm sure all I'm looking for is an obscure directory that represents the Show Applications menu. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 18:12
  • You should ask Ubuntu questions at Ask Ubuntu.
    – Melebius
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 13:16
  • I asked it here because I figured it would apply to most Linux distros, but now that you mention it, yeah, it probably would have been better there. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 18:37

5 Answers 5


I was looking for a solution to do something similar - I installed an app from source and wanted to have it available in the "Show Applications" menu. Found a way to do that by running a grep for the name of one of the applications already shown in that menu.


The obscure directory you're looking for would be: /usr/share/applications.

Just have a look at the *.desktop files there, choose one that doesn't have too much cruft, copy it to a new .desktop file and edit to reflect your app.


One thing that I don't yet know how to do is how to have the "Add to Favorites" option available for it...

ps. once I know the solution, by rephrasing the question, I was able to find this thread that gives a few more solutions to a similar question: https://askubuntu.com/questions/79583/adding-custom-applications-to-gnome-launcher


On ubuntu 18, I use the "alacarte" software which is installed with the system.

I think that this software is already available on ubuntu 17.

$ apt search alacarte
Sorting... Done
Full Text Search... Done
alacarte/bionic,bionic,now 3.11.91-3 all [installed]
  easy GNOME menu editing tool

You can run it, with the command "alacarte" in a terminal or typing "alacarte" in the research bar of the activity screen.

I add an entry to idea.sh in the "Programmation" topic (french name).


After that, the entry is available when searching it in activity screen and when found, you can add it to the favorites by clicking with the right button of the mouse.

activity screen

  • 1
    Tks, it works! Should be the best answer
    – hungson175
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 12:19
  • still valid answer on 22.04.3 LTS Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 14:58

I used AppEditor from here and here to create a shortcut to run the Spring Tool Suite software which had an executable extracted to its own folder in my Home directory.

It worked fine and I could add the shortcut to the Programming category and assign an icon to it.

enter image description here


There is a neat GUI tool that you can use to add custom shortcuts to the Show Applications menu:

AppEditor https://flathub.org/apps/details/com.github.donadigo.appeditor


Just found out this and I feel I should definitely share this with people struggling: https://averagelinuxuser.com/ubuntu_custom_launcher_dock

For me, the issue was with Thunderbird that I wasn't able to add to the menu/favorites. It is now possible!


Fix "Add to Favorites" for custom apps in Ubuntu

There is no “Add to Favorites” option in Ubuntu dock for custom apps. You will learn how to create a custom launcher and add to favorites in the dock.


  • Add standard application to Ubuntu dock
  • Add custom application to Ubuntu dock
  • Create terminal launcher for custom application


Add standard application to Ubuntu dock

If you open any application from the Ubuntu menu and right-click on it in the dock, you will be able to pin it to the dock by selecting “Add to Favorites”:


The application launcher will stay there after you close the app. That’s is the way to get a quick launcher for any app. However, this approach doesn’t work if you install an application not from the Ubuntu repository.

Add custom application to Ubuntu dock

Let’s say you have installed an application using an executable file and not the repositories. If you launch such an application and try to add it to favorites in the Ubuntu dock, you won’t find such an option in the context menu:


I don’t know why you cannot add to dock custom applications by default. And the only way to add it is to create a launcher manually.

For that, you need to create a yourapp.desktop file in /usr/share/applications/:

sudo nano /usr/share/applications/yourapp.desktop

Paste the following content:

#!/usr/bin/env xdg-open
[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Description of YourApp
Replace yourapp with your application and save by pressing Ctrl+O, Enter and Ctrl+X.

Make this file executable:

sudo chmod +x /usr/share/applications/yourapp.desktop

Log out and log in.

Open the Ubuntu Dash menu and you should be able to find your custom application in the menu. You can launch it from the menu.


Also, if right-click on it, you should be able to select “Add to Favorites” and pin it to the dock panel:


Now, when you close this application, a quick launcher will stay in the dock panel.

  • I don't see Add to Favorites when I right click the app icon as shown in the shortcuts and app bar (only All Windows and Quit), although it is available from the icon the dash menu.
    – user73139
    Commented Apr 29 at 17:17

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