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This specification outlines how I feel the default (preferred) applications dialog should be.


The current default applications dialog lets us choose our preferred applications for web browsing, email reading and using the terminal, and I believe it needs to be expanded.

There are many different filetypes with many different editors or viewers, and these need an easy way to choose the default application that they are used in. For example, there are filetypes such as pdf, torrent, txt and so on which have many different applications they can use.

Use cases

  • Fred is a new user who has downloaded the free software magazine as a pdf, and it instantly opens in Evince. This surprises Fred because he wanted it to load in his newly installed Adobe Acrobat reader. He is slightly miffed. No problem, Fred opens up the 'Preferred Applications' dialog in the aptly named Preferences menu and set pdf files to open with Acrobat. No problem.
  • Hubert is a windows and linux user, who has Microsoft Word installed through wine. One day he receives a letter as a .doc file. When he opens the file he is confused to see it open in OpenOffice and wants to make .doc files open in Word. Using his inititive he trys to find somewhere where change it. After seconds he find the 'Preferred Applications' dialog and all is good.

  • Bob has just installed a new fancy media player thing, and he wants to tell it to open mp3, ogg, flac, mov and mpg files. He would need to hunt down each of those file of those files and change each one before this, but now he can change them all in the same place, just by changing the player associated with the music category. Saving lots of speed and energy, and that's what he's all about. Smile :)


This specification covers Ubuntu and Gnome.


  • There should be another tab in 'Preferred Applications' to be used for assigning different types of file to different applications.


I am proposing simple, centralised way for users to choose what program they want to open their files.


At the moment users have no central way to choose what program opens their files, I believe this would be a very powerful feature. This would be very useful to everyone, especially those new to Ubuntu.


This shouldn't be too hard to implement, as (if I understand it correctly) all that the new dialog would need to do would be to read from and write to the mime type database, and then have a gtk frontend coded around it.

  • Here's some useful implementation info

    Here's a class from GNOME. This class would probably form the basis of the result of this spec.

The grouping Method




for old comments see: SpecEnhancedPreferredApps/Archive


Usability/SpecEnhancedPreferredApps (last edited 2008-08-06 16:16:35 by localhost)