How to manage startup programs in Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu Focal Fossa logo from your desktop background.

Many applications are automatically configured to start when you log into your Linux desktop. You may also want to add your own favorite shows to the startup process. Here’s how to control what Ubuntu starts when you log in.

We performed this process on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS with its default GNOME desktop. The steps will be similar on other Linux distributions with a GNOME desktop, but you may need to use a different configuration tool on other desktop environments.

How to start the GNOME Startup Manager

To start the startup manager, open the application list by clicking the “Show applications” button on the dashboard in the lower left corner of your screen. Find and start the “Startup Applications” tool.

Launch the Startup Applications tool in Ubuntu.

You can also press Alt + F2 to open the Run a command dialog and run the following command:

gnome-session-properties

Run gnome-session-properties from the Run a command dialog.

If the Startup Tools tool doesn’t appear in the application menu for some reason, you can open a Terminal window and use the following command to start it:

sudo apt install gnome-startup-applications

Installing the GNOME Launcher Tool on Ubuntu.

How to prevent programs from starting automatically in Ubuntu

The Startup Application Preferences window will open. You will see a list of programs that start automatically when you log into your graphical desktop. Each application has a name and optionally a description.

To prevent a program from starting automatically, simply uncheck the checkbox to the left of the program. Unselected programs will not load at startup.

You can also click select a program and click “Remove” to remove it from the list here, but unchecking the program does the same and will allow you to more easily re-enable the startup program in the future, if you wish.

Disable a startup program in Ubuntu.

If you are not sure what a program is, you can search the web for its name. For example, if you search im-launch, you will find that this is the command you launch whatever input method you need.

You can also select a program and click “Edit” to see the complete command that runs when you log in.

Editing a startup program on the Ubuntu GNOME desktop.

How to add your own startup programs in Ubuntu

To add a startup program, you’ll want to know its full path. You can find this with the which command in a Terminal window.

For example, let’s say you want to run Firefox. First, launch a Terminal window and run the following command:

which firefox

It will tell you that the Firefox binary is located at /usr/bin/firefox . This is the path that you must enter in the Command field in the Add startup program window.

Click the “Add” button in the Startup Application Preferences window and enter the full path to the program you want to start in the Command field.

You must also enter a name for the program and, optionally, a comment. Both fields will only display in the Launch Applications Preferences window.

Add a custom startup program in Ubuntu.

When you’re done, click “Add.” You will see your custom launcher shown here. As long as you have a checkbox and it appears in this list, the GNOME desktop will launch it every time you log into Ubuntu.

Firefox as a custom launcher application on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.


By the way, many applications that start at startup offer a built-in option to change this. For example, you can prevent Dropbox from starting automatically on Linux using its options window, just like you can on Windows and Mac.

However, the Launch Application Preferences tool allows you to see everything your desktop automatically opens and control it from one place.

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