Launch VirtualBox VM with a .desktop file

Posted on: Sunday, Dec 17, 2017

I'm using a VirtualBox VM on a PHP project. The VM is a desktop version of Ubuntu 17.04, sometimes used with one monitor and sometimes used with two. VB works great in this environment but its multiple monitor capabilities are a little prickly. Launching the VM with one monitor when the settings are set for two monitors is sometimes troublesome. The problem is easy to fix: just change the VM settings to one or two monitors. But it's annoying to have to remember to do that. What I wanted was a couple of buttons on the desktop to launch the VM for either one or two monitors.

The solution required creating a little bash script, a couple of .desktop files, and downloading a couple of pngs. (One of the only times I miss Windows is when I need Illustrator!). There are utilities available to create desktop shortcuts, but they aren't worth the time and grief. Creating a .desktop file manually is a very simple.

The bash script

This bash script first uses VirtualBox's VBoxManage command line to change the VM's monitor setting to either one or two monitors and then it launches the VM.

    # Pass either 1 or 2 for number of monitors to use.
    VBoxManage modifyvm "Laravel 5.5" --monitorcount $1
    VBoxManage startvm "Laravel 5.5"

This file can be in many places, I keep mine in the home root. Be sure to make it executable with:

chgmod u+x

The .desktop file

Unity app launchers are config files in the ~/Desktop folder. The entries for a .desktop file are pretty much self-explanatory. Note the paths specified must be fully-qualified (don't use the ~/ home shortcut). Put these files in the ~/Desktop folder. The name of the file doesn't matter; the Name entry in the .desktop file provides its desktop text. (The full docs for .desktop files are very helpful.) In my case, two .desktop files were needed, one for a vm with one monitor and one for two monitors. (The .desktop file for one monitor is shown below.)

    [Desktop Entry]
    Exec=/home/roger/ 1
    Name=VM w/1
    Comment=comment here

Each .desktop file must also be made executable with:

chgmod u+x run1vm.desktop

After saving a .desktop file it shows immediately on your desktop.

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