App menu shortcut troubleshooting

For ease of use Qubes aggregates shortcuts to applications that are installed in app qubes and shows them in one application menu (aka “app menu” or “start menu”) in dom0. Clicking on such shortcut runs the assigned application in its app qube.


To make applications newly installed via the OS’s package manager show up in the menu, use the qvm-sync-appmenus command (Linux qubes do this automatically):

qvm-sync-appmenus vmname

After that, select the Add more shortcuts entry in the qube’s submenu to customize which applications are shown:


The above image shows that Windows HVMs are also supported (provided that Qubes Tools are installed).

What if my application has not been automatically included in the list of available apps?

Sometimes applications may not have included a .desktop file and may not be detected by qvm-sync-appmenus. Other times, you may want to make a web shortcut available from the Qubes start menu.

You can manually create new entries in the “available applications” list of shortcuts for all app qubes based on a template. To do this:

  1. Open a terminal window to the template.
  2. Create a custom .desktop file in /usr/share/applications (you may need to first create the subdirectory). Look in /usr/share/applications for existing examples, or see the full file specification. It will be something like:

    [Desktop Entry]
    Comment=Scan Documents
  3. In dom0, run qvm-sync-appmenus <templateName>.
  4. Go to VM Settings of the app qube(s) to which you want to add the new shortcut, then the Applications tab. Move the newly created shortcut to the right under selected.

If you only want to create a shortcut for a single app qube, you can create a custom menu entry instead:

  1. Open a terminal window to Dom0.
  2. Create a custom .desktop file in ~/.local/share/applications. Look in the same directory for existing examples, or see the full file specification. You may use qvm-run inside the .desktop file; see Behind the scenes for more details.
  3. Edit the ~/.config/menus/applications-merged/<vmname> file for the app qube.
  4. Add a custom menu entry referring to your newly created .desktop file.


What about applications in disposables?

See here.

Fixing shortcuts

First, try this in dom0:

$ qvm-appmenus --update --force <vm_name>

If that doesn’t work, you can manually modify the files in ~/.local/share/applications/ or /usr/local/share/applications/.

For example, suppose you’ve deleted my-old-vm, but there is a leftover Application Menu shortcut, and you find a related file in ~/.local/share/applications/. In dom0:

$ rm -i ~/.local/share/applications/my-old-vm-*

Behind the scenes

qvm-sync-appmenus works by invoking the GetAppMenus Qubes service in the target domain. This service enumerates applications installed in that qube and sends formatted info back to the dom0 script (/usr/libexec/qubes-appmenus/qubes-receive-appmenus) which creates .desktop files in the app qube/template directory of dom0.

For Linux qubes the service script is in /etc/qubes-rpc/qubes.GetAppMenus. In Windows it’s a PowerShell script located in c:\Program Files\Invisible Things Lab\Qubes OS Windows Tools\qubes-rpc-services\get-appmenus.ps1 by default.

The list of installed applications for each app qube is stored in dom0’s ~/.local/share/qubes-appmenus/<vmname>/apps.templates. Each menu entry is a file that follows the .desktop file format with some wildcards (%VMNAME%, %VMDIR%). Applications selected to appear in the menu are stored in ~/.local/share/qubes-appmenus/<vmname>/apps.

Actual command lines for the menu shortcuts involve the qvm-run command which starts a process in another domain. Examples: qvm-run -q -a --service -- %VMNAME% qubes.StartApp+7-Zip-7-Zip_File_Manager or qvm-run -q -a --service -- %VMNAME% qubes.StartApp+firefox

Note that you can create a shortcut that points to a .desktop file in your app qube with e.g. qvm-run -q -a --service -- personal qubes.StartApp+firefox.

While this works well for standard applications, creating a menu entry for Windows applications running under wine may need an additional step in order to establish the necessary environment in wine. Installing software under wine will create the needed .desktop file in the target Linux qube in the directory ~/.local/share/applications/wine/Programs/ or a subdirectory thereof, depending on the Windows menu structure seen under wine. If the name of this file contains spaces, it will not be found, because the qvm-run command is falsely seen as terminating at this space. The solution is to remove these spaces by renaming the .desktop file accordingly, e.g. by renaming Microsoft Excel.desktop to Excel.desktop. Refreshing the menu structure will then build working menu entries.

Note: Applications installed under wine are installed in AppVMs, not in the template on which these AppVMs are based, as the file structure used by wine is stored under ~/.wine, which is part of the persistent data of the AppVM and not inherited from its template.