From ArchWiki
Revision as of 09:36, 3 October 2013 by Headkase (talk | contribs) (Setting default browser for xdg-open)
Jump to: navigation, search

xdg-open is a desktop-independent tool for configuring the default applications of a user. Many applications invoke the xdg-open command internally.

Inside a desktop environment (e.g. GNOME, KDE, Xfce, etc.), xdg-open simply passes the arguments to that desktop environment's file-opener application (gvfs-open, kde-open, or exo-open, respectively), which means that the associations are left up to the desktop environment. When no desktop environment is detected (for example when one runs a standalone window manager, e.g. Openbox), xdg-open will use its own configuration files.


xdg-open is part of the xdg-utils package available in the official repositories. xdg-open is for use inside a desktop session only. It is not recommended to use xdg-open as root.


The config file

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with Default Applications.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: Default Applications article describes (or at least should describe) the standard in general, as well as manual method of configuration (Discuss in Talk:Xdg-open#)

xdg-open uses configuration files located at $XDG_DATA_HOME/applications/mimeapps.list (for a single user; $XDG_DATA_HOME defaults to ~/.local/share) and /usr/share/applications/defaults.list (system wide). Its format is as follows:

[Default Applications]

For example:

[Default Applications]

The best way to look up the MIME type is to read the MimeTypes list in your application's .desktop file (see Desktop Entries for details).

Some tools are available to edit the configuration files:


  • To get mime type of photo.jpg:
$ xdg-mime query filetype photo.jpg
  • To get default .desktop file starter for image/jpeg mime type:
$ xdg-mime query default image/jpeg
  • To make Thunar the default file-browser, i.e. the default application for opening folders:
$ xdg-mime default Thunar.desktop inode/directory
  • To use xpdf as the default PDF viewer:
$ xdg-mime default xpdf.desktop application/pdf

Previous command should create an entry in your local MIME database:

[Default Applications]

Setting default browser for xdg-open

This can be tricky to find, so to save you some work:

 $ xdg-mime default firefox.desktop x-scheme-handler/http
 $ xdg-mime default firefox.desktop x-scheme-handler/https


 $ xdg-mime default firefox.desktop text/html

Drop-in replacements and useful tools

xdg-open replacements

Name/Package Description Based on Configuration file
busking-gitAUR A simple, regex-based xdg-open replacement. perl-file-mimeinfo custom
exproAUR Opens objects in associated applications by matching regular expressions against object name or MIME-type. file (but alternatives can be configured) custom
linopenAUR An intelligent and suckless replacement for xdg-open. file custom
mimeoAUR Open files by MIME-type or file name using regular expressions. It can be used on its own or through xdg-utils-mimeoAUR. file standard mimeapps.list or defaults.list; custom is optional
mimi-gitAUR A working replacement for xdg-open. file custom


The .mailcap file format used by the mutt mail program is way easier to read and write. The run-mailcapAUR package from the AUR provides a executable that could be easily symlinked to /usr/bin/xdg-open, but that parser is unable to handle directories or links. The simplest solution would be to install mimeo from the AUR too and create a /usr/bin/xdg-open with the following content:

run-mailcap $1 || mimeo $1

Then use the defaults.list at ~/.local/share/applications/ to associate URLs and folders with applications and the .mailcap file for normal mimetypes.


mimetype in perl-file-mimeinfo package can display some mimetype-related information about a file.

For example:

$ mimetype file.ext

returns the mimetype of a file,

$ mimetype -d file.extension

returns a description of that mimetype.

Environment variables

Some environment variables, such as BROWSER, DE, and DESKTOP_SESSION, will change the behaviour of the default xdg-open. See Environment Variables for more information.

See also