I am trying to play a MKV file with Totem and on some files I get the following message:

Unable to play the file
PGS subtitles decoder is required to play the file, but it is not installed
Cancel / Find in Ubuntu Software

  • Selecting the "Find in Ubuntu Software" button reveals nothing.
  • apt search pgs finds nothing that I can identify that would help resolve the issue.
  • "Cancel" allows the file to play, but obviously without subtitles.
  • Google and AskUbuntu have been no help.

This is a new install of 19.04 (but an old $HOME directory). I was playing these files just fine with 18.10.

(And to preempt a common refrain for problems like this, I don't want to "just use VLC". I want Totem to work.)


1 Answer 1


The Totem installation on Ubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo is missing a couple of decent gstreamer plugins by default. To get a better experience with this media player (and get PGS subtitle support) you will need to also install the following 'recommended' and 'suggested' packages which are not installed by default:

  1. recommended: gstreamer1.0-pulseaudio totem-plugins
  2. suggested: gstreamer1.0-libav gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly

It is the gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad package that contains the plugin for PGS subtitles and certainly on my system with this installed PGS subtitles roared into life. A single command will install all of these extras:

sudo apt-get install gstreamer1.0-libav gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad \
     gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly gstreamer1.0-pulseaudio totem-plugins

And then all should be well :)


  • That's annoying... I had specifically chosen the "install codecs" (or whatever) option when installing Ubuntu 19.04, which included bad and ugly. That worked in 18.04 but apparently not anymore. Thanks!
    – Cliff
    May 11, 2019 at 19:49
  • 1
    @Cliff Great to hear it is all working nicely, and thanks for spurring me along to actually install 19.04 (on VM). It looks great!
    – andrew.46
    May 12, 2019 at 7:57

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