I used to work on the Mac terminal before and I used:

open file2open.pdf

and the PDF file would be opened on preview or whatever my default viewer was. When I use it in the terminal in Ubuntu I get this error message:

Couldn't get a file descriptor referring to the console
  • 22
    Ubuntu is not Mac (just pointing that out). – RolandiXor May 16 '11 at 21:24
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    @Roland but mac claims to be a unix based system, so I assumed the terminal would behave the same atleast – yayu May 16 '11 at 22:47
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    Linux is not Unix. – RolandiXor May 17 '11 at 0:44
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    Linux is what Unix wanted to be, when it was growing up. – david6 Nov 20 '11 at 21:51
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    You can use fbi (Linux frame buffer image viewer) apt-get -y install fbi fbgs arch.pdf man fbgs for color and resolutions. – user195833 Sep 24 '13 at 21:45

13 Answers 13


Most desktop environments (generic)

xdg-open file2open.xxx    

GNOME (generic)

  • until Xenial (16.04):

    gvfs-open file2open.xxx
  • starting with Artful (17.10):

    gio open file2open.xxx

(xxx = some file extension). With this command the default app for xxx will be invoked (for example evince if you want to open PDF).


  • Using Evince, GNOME’s default document viewer:

    evince file2open.pdf
  • Using Okular, KDE’s default document viwer:

    okular file2open.pdf
  • So there is absolutely no way to view the text of a pdf file inside the terminal? With the pictures removed or converted to ASCII art? – Vorac Nov 14 '13 at 12:27
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    That is another question. You can view with less. Example: less my-file.pdf – desgua Nov 16 '13 at 21:34
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    when using evince your document closes after you close the terminal. xdg-open per the elmicha's answer worked wll for me. – Jon49 Oct 30 '14 at 4:11
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    For gnome (3) this needs libgnome2-bin which is not installed by default. – Lode Nov 17 '15 at 13:57
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    evince file2open.pdf is simple way for the same. – Vikrant Mar 9 '17 at 7:01

You can also use:

xdg-open foo.pdf

xdg-open works in Gnome, KDE, xfce, LXDE and perhaps on other desktops.

You can put an alias in your ~/.bash_aliases:

alias open=xdg-open
  • 2
    +1. This is what chrome for one uses. It supports URIS as well (e.g. xdg-open irc://...). Pretty cool. – crazy2be May 16 '11 at 23:59
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    this is the proper answer not the one above, and this will work with all modern DEs. – OneOfOne May 17 '11 at 4:57

For all those lost Mac users in Ubuntu-land ..

Edit your .bashrc file, and add:

alias open='gnome-open'

Then you can just use:

open file2open.pdf
  • Does not work on Linux Mint with Cinnamon. `xdg-open' is the way to go. – Cain Aug 4 '17 at 2:07
  • on mint either xdb-open file.pdf or xreader file.pdf – zzapper Nov 26 '17 at 22:34

if you have Document Viewer installed type the following command:

evince Name_of_pdf_file

if it is not already installed you can install it firstly using the following command:

sudo apt-get install evince
  • You could add on how to install it when it isn't – MadMike Oct 23 '14 at 9:51

If you want to view PDF within Terminal (Command Line Interface), try to use zathura.

Install Zathura sudo apt-get install zathura -y.

To view a PDF file just run => zathura /path/to/xxx.pdf

BTW: zathura requires X11 anyway, it doesn't work on Servers with no X installed.

  • Works great and still nicely updated on github. – jamescampbell Nov 12 '18 at 2:00

if the pdf is simple...

pdftotext -layout file2open.pdf - | more

We can use this in text mode, ssh, etc.


You can also use

ooffice filename.pdf

to open your file in open office.

  • 6
    @Pilot6 This looks like an answer to me. – Seth Jun 20 '15 at 2:57

In Ubuntu 17.04 you case use this:

gio open <file.pdf>

  • the command gio is not available in Ubuntu, at least on 16.04 – luisgonzalez Jan 30 '18 at 12:58

I personally use a shell script:

$ cat pdf
#! /bin/bash

gnome-open ${1:-*.pdf}

When you call pdf it will open all pdfs in the current directory, specify which pdf by supplying an argument. I have many directories containing but one pdf file (e.g. so many LaTeX directories) so only having to write pdf saves me quite some time and keystrokes.


The Z shell (zsh) has suffix based alias (-s), these allow you to set up a file association between a file extension like .jpg and a suitable application like xreader:

alias -s pdf='xreader'

With an alias like that you just need to type the file name and hit ↵ Return, e.g.:

  • The zsh shell has suffix based alias (-s) these allow you to set up a file association between a file extension e.g. jpg and a suitable application say xnview – zzapper Nov 27 '17 at 8:29

You can define the following function in your ~/.bashrc

open () {
     read -p "Enter File Name: " ; xdg-open "$REPLY"
  • open () { read -p "Enter File /location/Name: " ; ''xdg-open $REPLY'' } – user277818 May 4 '14 at 13:07

Too open with Libre office use:

loffice <file.pdf>


soffice <file.pdf>


Goplay -

gooffice <file.pdf>

You can also type:

firefox file_name.pdf

This will open your pdf in firefox browser.

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