Tried to set the default browser using the GUI tools but this didn't work overall. Is there a way to configure the system wide default browser from command line?


Execute the following command in terminal,to change the default browser.

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser

Sample output:

karthick@Ubuntu-desktop:~$ sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser 
There are 3 choices for the alternative x-www-browser (providing /usr/bin/x-www-browser).

  Selection    Path                    Priority   Status
  0            /usr/bin/google-chrome   200       auto mode
* 1            /usr/bin/firefox         40        manual mode
  2            /usr/bin/google-chrome   200       manual mode
  3            /usr/bin/opera           90        manual mode
  • Press enter to keep the default[*].

  • Right now I have firefox as my default web browser.

  • If i want google-chrome as default browser then I will type 3 and hit enter.


  • If you want to configure a commandline browser,then you have to configure

    sudo update-alternatives --config www-browser

  • Alternate way is to add the following line export BROWSER=/usr/bin/firefox to your ~/.bashrc

  • Add the above line in the last,

    enter code here

Alternative GUI Method:

  • You can also set the default browser in Gnome applications,type the following in terminal and press Enter gnome-default-applications-properties
  • It will Open a Window.Now you can choose your preferred browser to set it default. alt text
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  • 2
    My gnome-www-browser is a link to epiphany, my x-www-browser is a link to chromium, but the right click in the terminal (gnome-terminal and terminator) opens the url with firefox :( – Arpad Horvath Apr 10 '12 at 8:51
  • Is there command line for to set document viewer as default for PDF. – Rahul Raj Mar 2 '16 at 17:26
  • 1
    This doesn't work for Ubuntu 18.04. The answer from stilllife works: xdg-settings set default-web-browser chromium-browser.desktop – Graham Jul 29 '18 at 18:00

The already suggested methods might not work for some app (e.g. HipChat).

I've had to do:

xdg-settings set default-web-browser chromium-browser.desktop
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  • XFCE seems to set this with it's GUI Settings -> Preferred applications – Xen2050 Dec 22 '17 at 21:40
  • 1
    This helped me set the default browser for jupyter notebook. – jchook Jan 29 '18 at 1:02

It depends a bit on what "default browser" exactly means, i.e. for what purpose you want to change the browser. Some programs ignore any system-wide settings and use their own settings.

That said, you can set the default browser for all programs starting the browser with the generic sensible-browser command by exporting the BROWSER variable, e.g. add a line to the file ~/.bashrc:

export BROWSER=/usr/bin/firefox

The other generic way of calling a browser is x-www-browser, this one is handled by the Debian "alternatives" system:

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser

If you want to configure a commandline-only browser like lynx, you have to configure www-browser instead.

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Try the following commands:

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser
sudo update-alternatives --config www-browser
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Additional to those answer google-chrome has usually a symbolic link to the channel-specific version:

/usr/bin/google-chrome -> /etc/alternatives/google-chrome -> /usr/bin/google-chrome-beta
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Set Chrome as Default Browser from Command Line

open -a "Google Chrome" --args --make-default-browser

Read complete article here: http://www.blogcookie.com/2016/07/set-chrome-default-browser-command-line/

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  • What exactly does this do/change? – Xen2050 Dec 22 '17 at 21:41

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser

only shows installed application trough apt-get, for manual installation you can use

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/x-www-browser x-www-browser /opt/yourapp/yourapp 200
sudo update-alternatives --set x-www-browser /opt/yourapp/yourapp
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For me, today, running Gnome 3, ~/.config/mimeapps.list is what controls gnome-open <url> and Java's Desktop.getDesktop().browse(new URI(url)). This is what changes there when I run gnome-control-center (the "Details" applet in the settings application from the top right menu) and change Default Applications, Web from Google Chrome to Firefox ESR:

< x-scheme-handler/http=google-chrome.desktop
> x-scheme-handler/http=firefox-esr.desktop`

As hoped, I could revert that from the command line with:

perl -i -wpe 's@x-scheme-handler/http(s?)=firefox-esr.desktop@x-scheme-handler/http$1=google-chrome.desktop@' ~/.config/mimeapps.list

... and put it back with:

perl -i -wpe 's@x-scheme-handler/http(s?)=google-chrome.desktop@x-scheme-handler/http$1=firefox-esr.desktop@' ~/.config/mimeapps.list

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  • Looks like this is the file that xdg-settings set default-web-browser google-chrome.desktop updates. – eichin Apr 16 at 6:38
  • For me that seems to be replacing .local/share/applications/mimeapps.list... with the same content it already has. Something's broken but perhaps it's just for me. – Martin Dorey Apr 17 at 8:34

For me, sensible-browser seems to just call /usr/bin/gnome-www-browser, which symlinks to /etc/alternatives/gnome-www-browser, which symlinks to the browser. To change it, I needed to do this:

sudo rm /etc/alternatives/gnome-www-browser
sudo ln -s ~/bin/firefox /etc/alternatives/gnome-www-browser

You should put the full path to the browser that you want to use in place of ~/bin/firefox.

Now, when I run sensible-browser https://example.com, Firefox opens as expected.

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