Linux is ugly. Yes, I know, I’m the guy who’s always rooting for Linux. But it is ugly by default. Ubuntu’s default “Humanity” icon pack is atrocious, and GNOME’s “Adwaita” is even worse. The problem is, developers of Linux distros and desktop environments focus more on functionality than they do eyecandy. For example, by default, Mozilla Firefox is called Firefox Web Browser. I mean, where did that come from? So in this tutorial, I’m gonna share how to change that.

All the information about look in a Linux app is stored in a .desktop file. Although there is a slight danger when editing this file, and you need to do it as root, it’s relatively easy to edit and configure.

First, open the terminal and type:

cd /usr/share/applications


These commands change the working directory to /usr/share/applications/ (where the .desktop files are stored) and then list the files in that directory, so we can tell what our app’s .desktop file is called. Firefox’s file is called “firefox.desktop.”


Once you’ve discovered the name of your app’s .desktop file, type the following command:

sudo nano filename.desktop

where filename is the name of your app’s .desktop file. This will allow us to edit the file. If your distro doesn’t support sudo, run the command as root. You can replace nano with your favourite text editor, like vim or emacs. If you want to use a GUI editor like gedit or Kate, use the “gksu” command instead of sudo. A file similar to the one below will open and you can edit it


If you don’t like the name of the app, edit the name variable to be whatever you like, whether it be Hall of Reddit or Palace of Facebook, or just a normal name. Since I find the Firefox icon a little outdated, I’m also going to change the icon to this one from the La Capitaine icon pack:firefox-icon-unbranded

To change the icon, scroll down and change the “Icon” variable to the path of your new image file. So, because my icon is stored in my pictures folder, I would type:


Once you’ve finished, press Ctrl+X to exit (assuming you’re using nano). Press Y then Enter when prompted. Next, type “exit” to close the terminal.


For our changes to take effect, we will need to restart the shell You can log out and then back in, or, if you’re using GNOME Shell, press Alt+F2 type R and then press enter.


What changes have you made to your .desktop files? Do you think Linux is defaultly ugly? Please let me know in the comments!


4 thoughts on “Linux .desktop Files: The Essential Guide

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