xdg-desktop-icon — command line tool for (un)installing icons to the desktop


xdg-desktop-icon install [--novendor] FILE

xdg-desktop-icon uninstall FILE

xdg-desktop-icon { --help | --manual | --version }


The xdg-desktop-icon program can be used to install an application launcher or other file on the desktop of the current user.

An application launcher is represented by a *.desktop file. Desktop files are defined by the Desktop Entry Specification. The most important aspects of *.desktop files are summarized below.


Installs FILE to the desktop of the current user. FILE can be a *.desktop file or any other type of file.
Removes FILE from the desktop of the current user.



Normally, xdg-desktop-icon checks to ensure that a *.desktop file to be installed has a vendor prefix. This option can be used to disable that check.

A vendor prefix consists of alpha characters ([a-zA-Z]) and is terminated with a dash ("-"). Companies and organizations are encouraged to use a word or phrase, preferably the organizations name, for which they hold a trademark as their vendor prefix. The purpose of the vendor prefix is to prevent name conflicts.

Show command synopsis.
Show this manual page.
Show the xdg-utils version information.

Desktop Files

An application launcher can be added to the desktop by installing a *.desktop file. A *.desktop file consists of a [Desktop Entry] header followed by several Key=Value lines.

A *.desktop file can provide a name and description for an application in several different languages. This is done by adding a language code as used by LC_MESSAGES in square brackets behind the Key. This way one can specify different values for the same Key depending on the currently selected language.

The following keys are often used:

This is a mandatory field that indicates that the *.desktop file describes an application launcher.
Name=Application Name
The name of the application. For example Mozilla
GenericName=Generic Name
A generic description of the application. For example Web Browser
Optional field to specify a tooltip for the application. For example Visit websites on the Internet
Icon=Icon File
The icon to use for the application. This can either be an absolute path to an image file or an icon-name. If an icon-name is provided an image lookup by name is done in the user's current icon theme. The xdg-icon-resource command can be used to install image files into icon themes. The advantage of using an icon-name instead of an absolute path is that with an icon-name the application icon can be provided in several different sizes as well as in several differently themed styles.
Exec=Command Line
The command line to start the application. If the application can open files the %f placeholder should be specified. When a file is dropped on the application launcher the %f is replaced with the file path of the dropped file. If multiple files can be specified on the command line the %F placeholder should be used instead of %f. If the application is able to open URLs in addition to local files then %u or %U can be used instead of %f or %F.

For a complete overview of the *.desktop file format please visit

Environment Variables

xdg-desktop-icon honours the following environment variables:

Setting this environment variable to a non-zero numerical value makes xdg-desktop-icon do more verbose reporting on stderr. Setting a higher value increases the verbosity.

Exit Codes

An exit code of 0 indicates success while a non-zero exit code indicates failure. The following failure codes can be returned:

Error in command line syntax.
One of the files passed on the command line did not exist.
A required tool could not be found.
The action failed.
No permission to read one of the files passed on the command line.

See Also



The company ShinyThings Inc. has developed an application named "WebMirror" and would like to add a launcher for for on the desktop. The company will use "shinythings" as its vendor id. In order to add the application to the desktop there needs to be a .desktop file for the application:


  [Desktop Entry]



Now the xdg-desktop-icon tool can be used to add the webmirror.desktop file to the desktop:

xdg-desktop-icon install ./shinythings-webmirror.desktop

To add a README file to the desktop as well, the following command can be used:

xdg-desktop-icon install ./shinythings-README