8 Really Useful Ubuntu Unity Quicklists

One of the useful features in Unity (Ubuntu Natty) is the adding of quicklists to the application icons in the launcher. For example, you can right click on the Google Chrome icon and access the option to open an incognito window, or right click the Gmail icon and select “Compose New Email” option. For those who came from the Windows background, this is very similar to the Windows 7’s taskbar jumplist.

Ubuntu came out with an API for the Unity launcher and anyone can create their own quicklists with a different modification of the configuration file. Currently there is no easy way to add a quicklist item. The following is the summary of the steps required to add a quicklist item:

1. Copy the desktop configuration file to your home folder.
2. Open the desktop configuration file with gedit.
3. Add the quicklist code to the file. The syntax is as follow:

#adapted from Ubuntu wiki. Example is for gnome-screenshot
 X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=Screen;Window
 
[Screen Shortcut Group]
Name=Take a screenshot of the whole screen
Exec=gnome-screenshot
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Window Shortcut Group]
Name=Take a screenshot of the current window
Exec=gnome-screenshot -w
TargetEnvironment=Unity

The X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts code refers to the entries that appear when you right click on the app icon. The following [XXX shortcut Group] is the action for each entry.

1. Add Private/Safe mode, Profile Manager and your frequently accessed site to Firefox icon.

unity-firefox

Copy the Firefox desktop configuration file to your home folder.

sudo cp /usr/share/applications/firefox.desktop ~/.local/share/applications

Open the file with gedit.

gedit ~/.local/share/applications/firefox.desktop

Replace the line

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=NewWindow;

with

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=NewWindow;Private;Safe;ProfileManager;MakeTechEasier
#feel free to change the name of your frequently accessed site

Next, add the following code to the end of the file:

[Private Shortcut Group]
Name=Private Mode
Exec=firefox -private-toggle
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Safe Shortcut Group]
Name=Safe Mode
Exec=firefox -safe-mode
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[ProfileManager Shortcut Group]
Name=Start Profile Manager
Exec=firefox -ProfileManager
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[MakeTechEasier Shortcut Group]
Name=Launch MakeTechEasier
Exec=firefox "maketecheasier.com"
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Save and close the file. Lastly, restart Unity

unity --replace

2. Add New Window and Incognito Mode to Google Chrome

This is assuming that you have installed Google Chrome in your Ubuntu.

unity-google-chrome

Run the command:

sudo cp /usr/share/applications/google-chrome.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
gedit ~/.local/share/applications/google-chrome.desktop

Add the following code to the end of the file:

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=NewWindow;Incognito
 
[NewWindow Shortcut Group]
Name=Open New Window
Exec=google-chrome
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Incognito Shortcut Group]
Name=Incognito Mode
Exec=google-chrome --incognito
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Save and close the file. Restart Unity

unity --replace

3. Add Favorite and Bookmarks to Home Folder

This will allow you to access the various folders directly from the launcher.

unity-nautilus

Run the command:

sudo cp /usr/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
gedit ~/.local/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop

Scroll down the file and replace the line:

OnlyShowIn=GNOME;

with

OnlyShowIn=GNOME;Unity;

Add the following code to the end of the file:

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=Videos;Documents;Music;Pictures;Downloads;Dropbox
[Videos Shortcut Group]
Name=Videos
Exec=nautilus Videos
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Documents Shortcut Group]
Name=Documents
Exec=nautilus Documents
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Music Shortcut Group]
Name=Music
Exec=nautilus Music
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Pictures Shortcut Group]
Name=Pictures
Exec=nautilus Pictures
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Downloads Shortcut Group]
Name=Downloads
Exec=nautilus Downloads
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Dropbox Shortcut Group]
Name=Dropbox
Exec=nautilus Dropbox
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Save and close the file. Restart Unity

unity --replace

4. Make the LibreOffice Start Center More Useful

unity-libreoffice

Run the command:

sudo cp /usr/share/applications/libreoffice-startcenter.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
gedit ~/.local/share/applications/libreoffice-startcenter.desktop

Add the following code to the end of the file:

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=Writer;Impress;Calc;Math;Draw
 
[Writer Shortcut Group]
Name=Writer
Exec=libreoffice -writer %U
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Impress Shortcut Group]
Name=Impress
Exec=libreoffice -impress %U
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Calc Shortcut Group]
Name=Calc
Exec=libreoffice -calc %U
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Math Shortcut Group]
Name=Math
Exec=libreoffice -math %U
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Draw Shortcut Group]
Name=Draw
Exec=libreoffice -draw %U
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Save and close the file. Restart Unity

unity --replace

5. Add Custom Commands to the Terminal

The terminal is not an application that you will use frequently, but if you do, there will always be a few commands that you use regularly. You can add these commands to the quicklist for quick access.

unity-terminal

Run the command:

sudo cp /usr/share/applications/gnome-terminal.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
gedit ~/.local/share/applications/gnome-terminal.desktop

Scroll down the file and replace the line:

OnlyShowIn=GNOME;

with

OnlyShowIn=GNOME;Unity;

Next, add the following code to the end of the file:

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=UpdateUpgrade;XamppStart;XamppStop;
 
[UpdateUpgrade Shortcut Group]
Name=Update and Upgrade System
Exec=gnome-terminal --command "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade"
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[XamppStart Shortcut Group]
Name=Xampp Start
Exec=gnome-terminal --command "sudo /opt/lampp/lampp start"
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[XamppStop Shortcut Group]
Name=Xampp Stop
Exec=gnome-terminal --command "sudo /opt/lampp/lampp stop"
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Save and close the file. Restart Unity

unity --replace

6. Create a Google Services Center

If you use Google services as much as I do, this is going to be very useful to you.

unity-google-services

Open a text editor and copy/paste the following code:

[Desktop Entry]
Version=1.0
Name=Google Services
Exec=/opt/google/chrome/google-chrome
Icon=/filepath/to/google-icon.png #change this filepath to the actual icon filepath
Terminal=false
Type=Application
Categories=Network;WebBrowser;
 
X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=Gmail;Contacts;Calendar;Docs;Reader;
 
[Gmail Shortcut Group]
Name=Gmail
Exec=xdg-open https://gmail.com
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Contacts Shortcut Group]
Name=Gmail Contacts
Exec=xdg-open https://www.google.com/contacts
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Calendar Shortcut Group]
Name=Google Calendar
Exec=xdg-open https://calendar.google.com
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Docs Shortcut Group]
Name=Google Docs
Exec=xdg-open https://docs.google.com
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Reader Shortcut Group]
Name=Google Reader
Exec=xdg-open https://google.com/reader
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Remember to change the icon file path (You can download the Google icon that I used here.) The code above uses Google Chrome. You can change it to use Firefox or your favorite browser.

Save the file with the name “google-services.desktop” in the folder “/home/username/.local/share/applications folder

Next, drag this file to the launcher.

7. Add Google Shortcut

Instead of accessing the Google services, if what you want is to have quick access to the various tasks in Google, like composing new email, adding a calendar, open a new doc etc, this is how you can do it.

unity-google-shortcuts

Open a text editor and copy/paste the following code:

[Desktop Entry]
Version=1.0
Name=Google Shortcuts
Exec=/opt/google/chrome/google-chrome
Icon=/filepath/to/google-icon.png #change this filepath to the actual icon filepath
Terminal=false
Type=Application
Categories=Network;WebBrowser;
 
X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=Gmail;Calendar;Docs;Spreadsheet;Presentation;
 
[Gmail Shortcut Group]
Name=Compose New Mail
Exec=xdg-open https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#compose
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Calendar Shortcut Group]
Name=Create New Event
Exec=xdg-open https://www.google.com/calendar/event?action=TEMPLATE
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Docs Shortcut Group]
Name=Create New Document 
Exec=xdg-open https://docs.google.com/document/create?hl=en
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Spreadsheet Shortcut Group]
Name=Create New Spreadsheet
Exec=xdg-open https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?new&hl=en
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[Presentation Shortcut Group]
Name=Create New Presentation
Exec=xdg-open https://docs.google.com/present/create?hl=en
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Remember to change the icon file path.

Save the file with the name “google-shortcuts.desktop” in the folder “/home/username/.local/share/applications folder

Next, drag this file to the launcher.

8. Quick Add PPA in Ubuntu Software Center

Our usual method of adding PPA is via the terminal, but this could be a more efficient way.

unity-usc

Run the command:

sudo cp /usr/share/applications/ubuntu-software-center.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
gedit ~/.local/share/applications/ubuntu-software-center.desktop

Add the following code to the end of the file.

X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=SoftwareProperties;SoftwareSources;
 
[SoftwareProperties Shortcut Group]
Name=Update Manager
Exec=update-manager -c %u
TargetEnvironment=Unity
 
[SoftwareSources Shortcut Group]
Name=Add/Edit PPAs
Exec=gksu software-properties-gtk
TargetEnvironment=Unity

Save and close the file. Restart Unity

unity --replace

The above are only a small fraction of what you can do with the Unity quicklists. You can also checkout AskUbuntu for more quicklists.

Note: If after adding the quicklist code and it causes problems to your system, you can easily restore your system by deleting the respective .desktop file from /home/username/.local/share/applications folder and restart unity.