How To Create Shortcuts On Linux Desktop

Ever had a problem creating a folder, application, file, etc shortcuts on your Linux desktop and end up not creating one at all? Good news! There is a way to get around that using a terminal program. In Linux, you create symbolic links or soft links to point to the linked file using this utility program called ln.   Let’s get down to it, shall we?

Create a folder named ‘Ryan’ under your home directory for this tutorial. Suppose Ryan is a regular user and has basic computer knowledge on creating and saving documents only, you’d want to create a shortcut to his folder on your desktop for him to navigate easily.

Open up your terminal emulator program, assuming Ryan’s situation, the below command would create a symbolic link to his folder on your desktop:

ln -s ~/Ryan ~/Desktop
create symbolic link in linux

After executing that command you will notice a new folder icon on your desktop that looks like a shortcut.

create shortcut icon in linux

And suppose, in your case, you wish to create a shortcut to your Document directory on your Linux desktop. Similar to that above command, you’d have done it this way:

ln -s ~/Documents ~/Desktop

You can also create a shortcut to almost any type of file. Try creating one yourself for audio files, custom applications, word documents, etc.  

A lil’ tad bit advanced

What if you wish to create a symbolic link to a file or folder that is stored in another partition? There is a way I can show you how to achieve that. Mount the appropriate partition in /mnt or /media during computer startup, by editing the /etc/fstab file. Then create a symbolic link to the required folder or file on your home directory.

​Below is a screenshot of an edited fstab file that mounts my “work partition” to /media/hub on computer starts up.

create shortcut in linux advanced method

Technical detail

ln is a utility program, succeeding it -s is the argument that tells ln to create a symbolic (or soft) link. The tilde symbol and forward slash ~/ is used to indicate the given program to start navigating from the user’s root directory (home directory).  

An advantage

There is an advantage in using this symbolic link and that is… ahem, you can create a symbolic link to a directory that exists in another partition. So in the event your Linux partition fails, you can rest assured that your documents, stored and linked from, in another partition stay intact. That’s how I take measure to keep my important directories and files safe, and easy to recover.  

What about GNOME?

GNOME is a very unique desktop environment that keeps its design goals on “simplicity”. So there is no such thing as “desktop icons” on GNOME, only free workspace. Creating a symbolic link on its Desktop directory is possible but expect no shortcut icon at all. I recommend creating links on your home directory and navigating it using a file manager program which is efficient.



Do not create symbolic links to removable storage media like your pen drive or portable hard disk. It’s impractical (with broken links lying around your desktop or home directory) though there’s no danger in that 🙂 Have a great alternative idea on how to create shortcuts on Linux desktop? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. ​


Mohd Sohail is a web developer and a Linux sysAdmin. He also loves to write how-to articles, applications reviews and loves to use new Linux distributions.

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  1. in win 7 i am used to creating shortcuts like one to a folder of phone numbers and snips from the web listings of businesses showing their hours. with ubuntu i have very little desktop not covered by the browser, and i don’t know how to do what your article discussed for a file or folder.I would like to add a listing to the file cabinet whatever that is called, so I could have a page of usual addresses. dos batch files were fine.I had some that were over 100 lines, went to windows and started doing stuff by hand.

    If I had a command line prompt and a ((^^** manual, I could do a lot with it. this command line is just type in unknown stuff and hope it works.

    But i had win 10 once until lightning struck, ubuntu is a better platform for firefox, I don’t have to buy another computer to get it, and bill gates is not running my machine, so this is good.

    • You don’t have to buy another computer to get windows 10. You can download the ISO file here if you’re using windows it will redirect to a download page for a Microsoft app for windows called media creation tool which is inefficent and problematic but if you use macOS, linux, or use windows with a user agent switcher Firefox or Chrome browser extension you can set it to mac or linux and then website will think you are using mac or linux and you can download the ISO.

  2. hi and thanks a lot for a quick solution on how to make a shortcut to some folder on Linux … however, i want to make a shortcut to an external storage hd unit …

    yes, i know you said it’s not a good idea really and i agree with the reason you just gave as well, but this is going to be a storage media that is ALWAYS connected, barely removed at all … how can i do it via a similar command or other tricks, such as we do in Windows by holding the Alt button and just click on the file of folder’s icon and then move it to the desktop or any other folder?


    (PS > i am quite well-versed in using the CLI (Terminal, as per LInux terminology) but i can’t work out how to do what i just said by simply looking at the command line you have given here and modify it myself!)

  3. So…similar to Windows, I can go to my external drive, right click on my music folder, for example, put a shortcut on my desktop…BUT when I reboot or restart the shortcut is no longer viable. Its faded with an X on it. What?? Its just a shortcut. If theres more to do than that, WHY??

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