I'm trying to get the mime type of a file from the command line as a printed string (eg. application/vnd.oasis.opendocument.spreadsheet).

I looked up how to do this and found the xdg-mime command.

From reading the man page (man xdg-mime), it seems I should run xdg-mime query filetype FILE. However, when I run this with any file it prints nothing and exits.

Is there a way to fix this? An alternative command?


Use file --mime-type -b filename

Look at file --help for more tips.


The great answer on this page can be put in a function or script like so:


$ mime_type.sh /etc/passwd  


function mime_type()
  file --mime-type -b $*

mime_type $*
  • 4
    Use the -b flag or --brief to file instead of piping to awk. – Emil Vikström Jan 30 '17 at 15:36
  • 1
    good point.. fixed! – brad parks Jan 30 '17 at 18:28

xdg-mime and file query different databases (xdg-mime is more comprehensive). See Why the difference between the results with "file --mime-type" and "xdg-mime query filetype"? for more discussion.

xdg-mime does not work correctly from a non-desktop session (e.g. if you're SSH'd into a machine).

mimetype /path/to/file

Tested in 18.04

  • mimetype works in 14.04 and above. – egdavid Jun 22 '20 at 15:37
  • Also only detects the mimetype based on the file extension it seems – Dark Star1 Feb 1 at 15:21

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