How to set default apps in GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon

Configuring what app you use by default is simple in Linux

When you click on a link in your desktop email application, click on an Email Us link in a website, or go to open a file in your file manager, you expect the right tool to open. Those apps are called default apps, because they are the apps set to open, by default, when links or files are clicked. They make life a little bit simpler.

Default apps are set by your operating system, sure, but you can change which app opens for web links, email links, calendar links, and music (just to name a few).

Let’s find out how this is done on three of the more popular Linux desktops: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

The instructions in this article use Pop!_OS 18.10 for GNOME, KDE Neon for KDE Plasma, and Linux Mint 19.1 for Cinnamon.

GNOME

The GNOME desktop makes this task incredibly easy. With GNOME you can set default applications for:

  • Web browser
  • Email client
  • Calendar
  • Music player
  • Video player
  • Photo viewer


There are two ways to get to this setting. The first is directly from the Settings app. Here’s how:

  1. Open the GNOME Dash and type settings.

    Settings in GNOME.
  2. Select the Settings launcher to open the GNOME Settings tool.

    Settings launcher in GNOME.
  3. In the left pane, scroll down, and select Details.

    Details heading in GNOME settings.
  4. Select Default Applications.

    Default applications in GNOME settings.
  5. Choose Google Chrome from the Web drop-down menu.

    Google Chrome in the Web options.
  6. Close the Settings tool.

There’s an easier way to find the Default Applications configuration window. Here’s how:

  1. Open the GNOME Dash, and type Default Applications. Select the entry when it appears.

    Default Applications in GNOME Dash.
  2. Select Chrome from the Web drop-down.

    Default applications menu.
  3. Close the Settings tool.

KDE Plasma

Setting the Default Apps for KDP Plasma isn’t quite as simple as it is in GNOME, but it doesn’t present too much of a challenge. Like GNOME, the configuration is taken care of with the Settings application and you can configure defaults for Email, File Manager, Terminal Emulator, and Web Browser. Once again, we’ll find out how to set Chrome as the default web browser. Here’s how:

  1. Press the desktop menu button in the bottom left corner.

    Desktop menu button in KDE Plasma.
  2. Select System Settings.

    System Settings in KDE Plasma.
  3. In the search bar (top left corner), type default, and select Applications when it appears.

    Applications in System Settings in KDE Plasma.
  4. In the center pane, select Web Browser.

    Default Applications window.
  5. Click the radio button next to In the following application.

    Default Applications window.
  6. From the application drop-down, select Google Chrome.

    Default Applications window.
  7. Press Apply.

    Default Applications window.
  8. Close the Settings tool.

Cinnamon

Setting the default applications on the Cinnamon desktop is done in similar fashion to KDE Plasma. The biggest difference (besides the number of applications for which you can set the default) is that in Cinnamon, the default applications are referred to as Preferred Applications. Here’s how to make the changes:

  1. Press the Cinnamon desktop menu in the bottom left corner of the screen.

    Desktop menu button in Cinnamon.
  2. Type preferred in the search bar and, when it appears, select Preferred Applications.

    Preferred Applications option in Cinnamon search window.
  3. In the Web section, select Google Chrome from the dropdown.

    Preferred Applications in Linux Cinnamon.
  4. Close the Settings window.

A Simple but Effective Change

You may not think setting the default applications in Linux to be a big victory. However, with every simple change you make, the desktop becomes more efficient and effective at helping you to get your work done.