I was wondering what's the terminal command to open the default web browser.


sensible-browser is the command you're looking for.

  • What about the differences between sensible-utils package and the system of alternatives found in /etc/alternatives and modified by update-alternatives? – enzotib Oct 19 '10 at 12:59
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    For me sensible-browser opens Opera instead pf default Chrome. xdg-open works as expected. – incrop Jun 17 '14 at 15:12
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    what @Incrop said is still true for Ubuntu 16.04, this opens Firefox instead of my default browser Chromium. – Andreas Hacker Mar 16 '17 at 10:58
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    sensible-browser doesn't follow user preference configured in unity-control-centre. xdg-open does. – Tankman六四 Feb 5 '18 at 0:58
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    Although my default (gnome) browser is Firefox, sensible-browser opens Chrome. – alfC Jan 20 '20 at 5:31

Searching on Google I found the answer.

xdg-open opens a file or URL in the user's preferred application. If a URL is provided the URL will be opened in the user's preferred web browser. If a file is provided the file will be opened in the preferred application for files of that type. xdg-open supports file, ftp, http and https URLs.

xdg-open is part of xdg-utils package and it's already installed on Ubuntu 10.10.

  • what does xdg stand for? Its hard to remember without knowing that. – Thupten Jul 13 '14 at 14:42
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    XDG stands for X Desktop Group aka freedesktop.org – Luca Jul 13 '14 at 19:05
  • Still still works on a default Ubuntu 16.04 installation. – Andreas Hacker Mar 16 '17 at 11:20
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    if the user once configured to open html files with a text editor by default, this will not work. OP asks for a way to open the web browser, not the default application for html files (even though by default it's the same) – phil294 Jun 29 '17 at 16:48
  • This will work on any gnu/linux distro that has x-server window manager (that is just about all of them - eg debian, *buntu, fedora, manjaro, Arch etc) – flurbius Dec 27 '17 at 19:58

You can also use:

x-www-browser http://some-url.org

And it will open the URL in the default browser.

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    for me, in Ubuntu 16.04, this will open Firefox even though Chromium is set as the default browser in the "Default Applications" setting. – Andreas Hacker Mar 16 '17 at 10:56
  • this one opens chrome despite another browser is the default – ram0nvaldez Dec 5 '20 at 13:32

With default Ubuntu setup only gnome-open command comes to mind.

gnome-open http://askubuntu.com
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    With default Ubuntu setup, sensible-browser and xdg-open commands work as well. – marenostrum Oct 19 '10 at 12:38
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    The advantage is that you can use gnome-open for almost all file-types, URIs and directories. It's one command to learn, instead of trying to remember about obscure commands like sensible-browser – Stefan Lasiewski Oct 21 '10 at 18:19
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    @Stefan Lasiewski: xdg-open should do the same thing - actually, it will call gnome-open, or kde-open, or whatever, depending on your desktop environment. Thus it's more portable. – Piskvor left the building Aug 22 '11 at 14:37
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    gnome-open is dependent on gnome desktop, better off using xdg as its more common – flurbius Dec 27 '17 at 19:59
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    gnome-open is not installed by default lately. – alfC Jan 20 '20 at 5:33

Just that you may find it useful. A fallback approach, and one liner.

URL="https://www.url.com/some"; xdg-open $URL || sensible-browser $URL || x-www-browser $URL || gnome-open $URL

Good reading for the no familiar with the logical operators https://www.howtogeek.com/269509/how-to-run-two-or-more-terminal-commands-at-once-in-linux/.

; => run in all cases,

|| => run if the precedent command failed (or)

&& => run only if the precedent command succeed


var=someval -> set a variable

$var -> invoke the variable

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    Consider explaining what this command does so that others that see this know more about your answer. Links are good, but you need to ensure the key content of the link is in your answer if it is part of your answer (incase the link dies in the future). – Zzzach... Apr 18 '19 at 3:23
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    @Zzzach...done! and i get the point. Though it was a simple matter. – Mohamed Allal Apr 18 '19 at 3:31
  • this one is nice – ram0nvaldez Dec 5 '20 at 13:34

I played around this a little. There is a problem with gnome-open — it won't invoke the default web browser unless you specify a url. That's a problem if you want to set up an icon or a shortcut that will always launch the browser that is set as default. Other times you might need to set it as a parameter for some programs that require a link to a web browser and don't work well with gnome-open (e.g.: acroread). You might solve this by using either x-www-browser or gnome-www-browser system links that you can set up through update-alternatives, but those are system wide settings, not user specific (and they are not synchronized with the values set through gnome-default-applications-properties. All this can be solved by opening the sensible-browserexecutable (which is actually a script):

sudo gedit $(which sensible-browser)

and adding this at the beginning:

BROWSER=$(gconftool -g /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/http/command)
export BROWSER="${BROWSER//"\"%s\""/}"

That will make sensible-browser always launch the user-specified default web browser. (I found out that gnome-default-applications-properties changes some gconf keys according to the browser that is currently set. The default browser value can be obtained from any of these keys so I went for /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/http/command and used it to fill the $BROWSER variable (the value is stripped of the "%s" part). )

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    I wouldn't recommend editing /usr/bin/sensible-browser as this answer recommends. This change will be overwritten on a system upgrade. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 21 '14 at 11:53
  • rather than try to install a modified script on a users system, a more realistic solution is to use xdg-open as per Luca's answer. If you specify a html file or a URL it WILL open the browser - if you supply something else it will open an appropriate application for that type of resource. I doubt there is any good reason to open some file with a browser when it will be better handled by some other application, either by default or in accordance with the users explicit choice. If you must, you can force the browser to open it with x-www-browser (see Benjamin's answer) – flurbius Dec 27 '17 at 20:34

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