Software & AppsOperating SystemLinux

How To Run a .desktop File in Terminal

Ubuntu 14

In Linux, .desktop files are used to launch applications. These files are usually located in /usr/share/applications or ~/.local/share/applications directories and can be executed from the graphical interface. However, there may be times when you want to run these files from the terminal. This article will guide you through the process of running a .desktop file from the terminal using various methods.

Understanding .desktop Files

Before we delve into the methods, it’s important to understand what a .desktop file is. A .desktop file is a shortcut that is used to launch an application in Linux. It contains information about the application such as its name, icon, and the command to execute it.

The main part of a .desktop file is the Exec line, which specifies the command to run the application. For example, in a .desktop file for Firefox, the Exec line might look like this: Exec=firefox %u. This line tells the system to run the firefox command to launch the application.

Method 1: Using gtk-launch

If your system has the gtk-launch command available, you can use it to run a .desktop file from the terminal. The gtk-launch command takes the name of a .desktop file (without the .desktop extension) and launches the corresponding application.

Here’s how to use it:

gtk-launch application-name

Replace application-name with the name of your .desktop file. For example, to run Firefox, you would use:

gtk-launch firefox

Method 2: Using xdg-open

The xdg-open command is another tool that can be used to open a .desktop file. However, due to a bug in some systems, this method may not work as expected. You can try running the following command to see if it works for you:

xdg-open /path/to/file.desktop

Replace /path/to/file.desktop with the actual path to your .desktop file.

Method 3: Using kioclient

If you are using the KDE desktop environment, you can use the kioclient command to execute a .desktop file. The kioclient command is part of the KDE Input/Output framework and can be used to perform various operations on files and URLs.

Here’s how to use it:

kioclient exec /path/to/file.desktop

Replace /path/to/file.desktop with the actual path to your .desktop file.

Method 4: Using dex

The dex tool is a lightweight and flexible .desktop file generator and launcher. It can be used to generate and execute .desktop files from the terminal. To use dex, you first need to install it. You can do this by running the following command:

sudo apt-get install dex

Once dex is installed, you can use it to run a .desktop file like this:

dex /path/to/file.desktop

Replace /path/to/file.desktop with the actual path to your .desktop file.

Method 5: Parsing the .desktop File Manually

If none of the above methods work, you can manually parse the .desktop file using tools like awk. Here’s an example of how to do this:

$(awk -F= '/^Exec/ {print $2; exit}' /path/to/file.desktop)

This command uses awk to search for the Exec line in the .desktop file and extracts the command after the = sign. It then executes this command.

Please note that this method may not handle all cases, such as commands with arguments or special variables.

Conclusion

Running a .desktop file from the terminal may not always work as expected, especially if the file is not designed to be executed directly. Some .desktop files may require a specific environment or context to function properly. However, with the methods described in this article, you should be able to run most .desktop files from the terminal without any issues.

Remember to replace /path/to/file.desktop and application-name with the actual path and name of your .desktop file. If you encounter any problems, make sure that the .desktop file is located in one of the permitted directories and that it has the correct permissions to be executed.

What is the purpose of a .desktop file?

A .desktop file is a shortcut used to launch an application in Linux. It contains information about the application such as its name, icon, and the command to execute it.

Where are .desktop files usually located?

.desktop files are typically located in the /usr/share/applications or ~/.local/share/applications directories.

Which method should I use to run a .desktop file from the terminal?

The choice of method depends on your system and the availability of the respective commands. You can start with Method 1 (using gtk-launch) as it is commonly available. If that doesn’t work, you can try other methods mentioned in the article.

Can I run a .desktop file with arguments or special variables?

Running a .desktop file with arguments or special variables may not be handled by all methods mentioned in the article. Method 5 (parsing the .desktop file manually) may not handle such cases. It is recommended to check the specific .desktop file’s contents to see if it supports arguments or variables.

What should I do if I encounter issues running a .desktop file from the terminal?

If you encounter issues, make sure that the .desktop file is located in one of the permitted directories (/usr/share/applications or ~/.local/share/applications) and that it has the correct permissions to be executed. Additionally, check if the specific .desktop file requires a specific environment or context to function properly.

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