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How to autostart programs on Gnome Shell

Opening apps automatically when you log in to Gnome Shell is a great way to set up your workspace ahead of time. The easiest way to autostart programs on Gnome Shell is to make use of the Tweaks application.

In this guide, we’ll go over how to install the Gnome Tweaks app to configure automatic program startup easily. Let’s get started!

Autostart programs via GUI

The Tweaks app isn’t installed by default on hardly any Gnome Shell-focused Linux distributions, as most distro maintainers would prefer that users not modify the default settings of the desktop. For this reason, you’ll need to install the application before continuing with this guide.

Install Tweaks

Installing the Tweaks application is quite simple on a majority of Linux distributions. Better yet, due to Gnome’s popularity with Linux users, even obscure and relatively unknown operating systems have it in their software repositories. To get it working, launch a terminal session by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T on the keyboard. From there, follow the command-line instructions that correspond to your OS.

Ubuntu

sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

Debian

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S gnome-tweak-tool

Fedora

Fedora Linux is one of few Linux operating systems that ship with a complete Gnome experience, so it’s likely that the Tweaks app is pre-installed. That said, if you need to get it working, it’s just a Dnf command away.

sudo dnf install gnome-tweak-tool

OpenSUSE

sudo zypper install gnome-tweak-tool

Generic Linux

As stated earlier, Gnome is one of the most used Linux desktop environments in existence, so even on lesser-known distributions, it should be no issue getting Tweaks up and running. If for some reason you are having problems, launch a terminal and search for “gnome tweaks.” Then, install it the way you’d typically install software on your OS.

Startup programs

With the Tweaks application up and running on your Linux operating system, it’s time to create a startup entry on Gnome Shell. To do this, press Win on the keyboard. Then, type “Tweaks.” Click on the icon with the label “Tweaks” to open up the app. From there, look for “Startup Applications” on the left-hand side and click on it with the mouse.

In the “Startup Applications” area of Tweaks, click the + sign. Doing so will bring up a picker menu.

Using the picker menu, browse through applications (running ones show up first) and click on it with the mouse to select. After making a selection, click the “Add” button to create a new startup entry for the program. Keep in mind that you must re-do this process for each app you want to automatically launch at start.

Done adding startup apps to Gnome? Close Tweaks to finish up.

Removing automatic program start

Deleting a startup entry in Gnome Shell is about as easy as adding one. To do it, ensure you have the Tweaks app open.  Once open, make your way to “Startup Applications.”

In the “Startup Applications” area of Tweaks, find the app you want to stop from automatically starting up in the list. Then, click the “remove” button to delete it from the list. Repeat this process for each app you wish to prevent from automatically launching during login.

When done removing startup entries, close the Tweaks app. Settings should apply automatically.

Autostart programs via terminal

The Tweaks app is not the only way to create startup entries in Gnome Shell. If you prefer the terminal, you can make entries in the “~/.config/autostart/” folder using the cp command.

To create a startup entry from the command-line, you must move the terminal from the home directory (~) to the “/usr/share/applications/” folder.

cd /usr/share/applications/

Run the ls command and take a look at the list of application shortcuts in the directory.

ls

Can’t find the program you want in the list of files on-screen? Combine the ls command with grep to narrow down the list.

ls | grep 'programname'

Take the program you’d like to automatically start from the list and plug it into the cp command below to create a new startup entry.

mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart/

cp programname.desktop ~/.config/autostart/

After making a new startup entry in the autostart folder, update the file’s permissions, so that Gnome Shell can interact with it correctly.

sudo chmod +x ~/.config/autostart/programname.desktop

Repeat this process as many times as desired to create as many startup entries as you’d like.

Removing autostart programs via terminal

To delete a startup entry from the terminal in Gnome Shell, move the command-line into the autostart folder using the CD command below.

cd ~/.config/autostart

Next, run the ls command and take a look at the startup entries in the folder.

ls

Copy the names of the programs you’d like to prevent from automatically starting up by plugging them into the rm command below.

rm programname.desktop

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