Create an "Invisible" Desktop Shortcut in Ubuntu




Using this instructable, you can create a hidden desktop shortcut with the judicious use of The Gimp, or some other full-featured editor.

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Step 1: Choose Your Background

Odds are you have a favorite picture as your background. Once you've selected one, open the original file in the GIMP. We'll use this picture for the icon. Also, check your screen resolution (System-->Preferences-->Screen Resolution) and write down what you find (Mine is set to 1024x768). The screen resolution is only important if the image you use is bigger than your resolution. On my PC, the image size is 1920x1440, much larger than my screen resolution of 1024x768.

Step 2: Resize Background Picture

If your picture is bigger than your background, or if you're stretching a smaller image to fill your background, this step is for you. If your image is exactly the same size as your screen resolution or smaller, ignore this step.

With the background picture open, select image-->scale image. Scale the image to exactly the size you saw in Screen Resolution. In my case this resolution is 1024x768.

Step 3: Select Small Area of Background Picture

Once you've scaled the image to the right size, use the selector tool in the Gimp to select a square 48 pixels by 48 pixels. As you use the selector tool, you'll see the area in pixels displayed at the bottom of the window. You can choose any part of the picture. Ctrl+C to copy just this area to the clipboard.

Step 4: Create New File in the Gimp

Now we'll create a 48x48 pixel image in the Gimp. While in the Gimp, ctrl+n for a new document, type in 48x48 in the Width and Height boxes. You'll end up with a blank square. Use Ctrl+V to paste the area selected in the previous step. You'll end up with a tiny bit of your original picture. Save the resulting image as icon.png.

Step 5: Create Your Launcher

Right-click the desktop, choose "Create Launcher". In the description field for the launcher, hit the space bar. The character 'space' will be the name for this launcher. You can't do this in Windows, one of the many cool things about Linux. Under "Command", type in the path to the application you intend to launch. This launcher can invoke an application, or launch a terminal window and run an app or command from there. In the upper left of the 'Create Launcher' window, there is a box with 'no icon' inside. Click this box, and browse to the location where you saved the 48x48 icon.png file. Click 'OK'.

Step 6: Place on Desktop

This step can be tricky, just make sure you right-click the desktop and uncheck 'Keep Aligned', or you'll never get it to the right place. Move the icon around until it integrates seamlessly into the background image, then you're done! Obviously there's nothing to keep someone from finding this if they really wanted to, but it's hard to accidentally click something you didn't even know was there! Good luck, I know not many people can use this but I've found it valuable for launching a ssh proxy from work, something I don't really care to advertise.

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    30 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 4

    Why not just make a transparent image? No need to match the desktop background, and you can use the same image for multiple icons.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Thanks for the info! Going to start hiding a whole bunch of directories = )


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I like this idea. however i used transparency. here is a screenshot (im using ubuntu studios btw). basically where there the musical notes etc it links to the appropriate folder.

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    doing what jj32x does would be better. he says that he uses a transparency, so if someone changes the background, the folder still can't be seen. It would also hide it (maybe) if some "helpfully" orgainizes your desktop automatically. Since in my version of Ubuntu it orgainises by name, i'm going to have to find out where " " (space) fits on the alphabet spectrum...


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    It does on XP SP2, I know this because I just tried it. I created a 50x50 pixel image on the GIMP, erased everything, and saved it as a .ico file. I then set a desktop shortcut to use it as an icon, and the icon vanished. Don't know on Linux, my Ubuntu machine isn't up and running.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I said the icon vanished, not the filename. Not sure if that's possible in XP. Didn't see a way to get rid of filenames in TweakUI. If I felt like making one, I'd probably just rename the shortcut "," or something.

    no, that dosent work in XP. to do it in XP, simply rename it, hold down alt, and press 0160 on your num pad and then hit enter.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    or if you are on a laptop and you don't have the numberpad open character map (start, then programs, then accessories, then system tools, then character map) then click advanced view. then where it says go to unincode: type 2000. then click select then copy. then go to the rename shortcut screen and press ctrl+v.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I think Fn + Alt + 0160 works also, that is if you have those little blue numbers on the letter keys of your laptop. Most of them do.But don't take my word for it, if I'm wrong let me know by all means =)


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I just tried it too, on Vista, and the icon was transparent, but the little "shortcut arrow" was still there, and it wouldn't let me put no text... Hmmm.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I've never actually tried it in Windows, because I've never found a way to get rid of the text. I know you can make the arrows go away with TweakUI (Maybe not in Vista, though).