Ways To Get Quick Access To Custom Apps On GNOME Desktop

Have you ever loaded a custom application from the Internet and encountered the following issue: having to launch your terminal application and enter the command to run that executable file? I’d done it several times before realising there are two ways to efficiently launch my custom installed applications on GNOME.

Using the terminal isn’t all that bad, but it’s tedious typing and retyping the same keystrokes every time you reboot. Continue reading to find out what they are and how you may use them on your GNOME Linux box.

What are custom applications?

Custom applications are those that you won’t ordinarily find in your distro’s software repository for installation. For example, IntelliJ, an IDE for Java developers, is relatively young, with no maintainers maintaining the package on practically all Linux distributions. So, a user like you and me would ordinarily go to the app’s official website and download its Linux tarballs, which we would then extract and run. Thus, the term custom application.

Using GNOME keyboard keys

This is the best and easiest method for launching the program. You can set that up by launching your Settings program and browsing down to Devices category. Choose Keyboard and you’ll see all the list of shortcuts set up by default.

Scroll down to the end until you encounter **Custom Shortcuts** section. That’s where we can add (and also remove) our custom keyboard shortcuts.

Select the + button to add a new custom shortcut. Key in the application name in the Name box and its corresponding command name in the Command box. After you’re done click the Set Shortcut button and hit your preferred custom keyboard shortcut keys. You’ve just successfully added a new keyboard shortcut for your custom application.

Creating a custom .desktop file

Using keyboard shortcut key to launch a custom application is amazing, however, there’s this problem of having to memorize all those shortcut keys if you have multiple (custom) applications installed on your system. In that case, you’d prefer to actually have those applications listed on your GNOME all apps overview.

​Use the below basic skeleton-like desktop structure to create one new custom app entry on your GNOME all apps overview:

[Desktop Entry] 

Save the file as *file-name.desktop* to ~/.local/share/applications directory.

There’s one thing to consider before you can skip this article and create one custom desktop file entry. The Icon directory name cannot have space(s) character. It causes issues. So if you have a folder named “something else” make sure to remove that space character by either replacing it with a dash or underscore character as in “something-else” or “something_else”.


I hope you’ve found this article helpful. By the way, I prefer custom keyboard shortcut keys over creating .desktop files because it’s clean and easier to maintain. Have another possible method to quickly access custom application on GNOME desktop? Please don’t hesitate to leave your opinions in the comment section below.