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How can I change my default text editor from gedit to Emacs?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Right click on a text file, point to "Open With" and it'll show other editors in a sub-menu. Click on "Other Application...". It'll show you a dialog with a list of applications, select Emacs and make sure the "Remember this application for "plain text document" file" option is checked. Click "Open".

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I did try this, but I'm having a bit of a problem - whenever I double-click on a file in Nautilus, I get a dialog box that says: "Do you want to run "tasks.css", or display its contents? "tasks.css" is an executable text file." And then there are four options - Run in Terminal, Display, Cancel, Run. (This happens with every file, not just CSS files.) – begtognen Nov 16 '10 at 12:05
@begtognen: Sorry for the ultra-late reply. But I've been trying to find a solution for this myself. Just found one - go to Nautlius preferences (Edit > Preferences), select the "Behavior" tab and under the "Executable Text Files" section, select the radio button "View executable text files when they are opened". Fixed the issue for me. – Mussnoon Nov 22 '10 at 23:28
YES! Worked beautifully. Thanks so much. – begtognen Nov 24 '10 at 23:16
I tried this also, but Emacs doesn't appear in the list of applications. Any thoughts? – MTS Apr 1 '14 at 19:44

The answer didn't work on 12.10. Here is what worked in my case:

  1. Right click on a text file.
  2. Choose "Properties" (not "Open With...")
  3. Click on the "Open With" tab.
  4. Choose your new text editor.
  5. Mark chosen text editor using a button "Set as default".

This also works on 12.04 and 13.04.

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It does not work on 13.04. After Step 3, I see a lot of choices, but not the editor I would like to have .... of course, the idea would be to use 'Add' ... but this is grayed out and can't be selected. Argh – Marius Hofert May 23 '13 at 15:24
worked for me on 13.10 (replaced gedit with geany) – Alexander Malakhov Jan 29 '14 at 9:35
"Set as default" not showing on v 14 – atilkan Aug 31 '15 at 4:44
worked on 15.04 too ! – Kshitij Saraogi Oct 27 '15 at 9:48
Also works on 14.04 – DamBedEi Feb 12 at 8:49

To change default text editor across the file types, try updating gnome-text-editor configuration.

sudo update-alternatives --config gnome-text-editor

In some cases:

sudo update-alternatives --config editor
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A more robust solution would be to replace the bindings in /usr/share/applications/defaults.list.

sed -i 's/gedit/emacs/' /usr/share/applications/defaults.list
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I don't know how, but by copying this command I accidentally cleared the whole file. I would much prefer doing this in a text editor using find-replace (as explained in this answer) for those who are not too familiar with sed. – metakermit Apr 5 '13 at 22:37

If you are working from the terminal then I would add the following to your .bashrc file (or the config file for your favorite shell):

export EDITOR=emacs
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sed -i 's/gedit/emacs/g' /etc/gnome/defaults.list
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If you would like to replace gedit with any other text editor for all file types, the easiest is to edit the defaults.list file located here:


Just find and replace all gedit.desktop references with your own editor (in this case emacs.desktop). You need root permissions to edit the file. So, just do:

sudo -H gedit /usr/share/applications/defaults.list

Save the file, close it and it's done.

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