Default refers to the setting/program set, etc. that was the initial configuration. This is a very generic tag, use a more specific one if possible.

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How do you use a shell other than bash at a terminal as default?

When you drop to the terminal via Applications -> Terminal or Ctrl+Alt+F1 etc. bash is used by default to interpret your commands. If you wish to use another command interpreter (like zsh or fish), ...
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How are applications selected as defaults?

Whenever I install Ubuntu there are certain applications I automatically install, instead of using Ubuntu's default (VLC comes to mind). My question is about how some software is chosen over others ...