How to automatically run a script when logging into Ubuntu Desktop

Last updated on September 8, 2020 by Dan Nanni

There are circumstances where you wish to have a script run automatically when you log in to Ubuntu Desktop. Such a script can configure various user-specific or system-wide settings on your Ubuntu system, upon user's desktop login.

In Linux, there are start-up scripts named ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bashrc, or ~/.profile which get executed when you start a shell. However, in Ubuntu Desktop, such start-up scripts get executed when you open up a terminal window, but not when you log in to Ubuntu Desktop GUI. Also, when you open multiple terminal windows, these kinds of start-up scripts are executed as many times, in order to initialize user's shell environment in terminal windows.

If what you want is to run a script at the time of user's Ubuntu Desktop login, you can follow this guideline.

Create a XDG configuration file for the start-up script you want to run.

$ vi ~/.config/autostart/my_script.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=My Script
Exec=~/bin/my_custom_script.sh
Icon=system-run
X-GNOME-Autostart-enabled=true

The above XDG configuration file will set up user-specific auto-start. If you want all users to use the same start-up script for all users system-wide, create a similar XDG configuration file in the following location instead.

$ sudo vi /etc/xdg/autostart/my_script.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=My Script
Exec=sudo /sbin/my_custom_script.sh
Icon=system-run
X-GNOME-Autostart-enabled=true

If the start-up script requires sudo access like an above example, you will need to set up password-less sudo. Refer to this tutorial for setting up auto-start services in different types of Linux desktop environments (e.g., GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE).

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