Subhadip's Blog

My experience with the computing world!

Linux equivalent for MacOS open


I have been using a Mac at my work for a few months now and there’s one command line utility in MacOS that I am quite impressed with called open. In this post I talk about a similar alternative in Linux world.

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What is open?

From the open man page:

Open a file or folder.

The open command opens a file (or a folder or URL), just as if you had double-clicked the file’s icon.

That is what it is, a command line utility for MacOS that will open a file or folder with it’s default application. It may not sound a lot but in reality it’s very handy. You don’t need to remember what type of a file it is or what is the preferred application to open these kind of files, you simply type:

open <file-name>

And it opens the file with the default application for its type in the background and leaves the prompt.

Linux equivalent of open

Surprisingly in Linux world, there was already an available alternative with the same functionality, it’s called xdg-open. From the man page of xdg-open:

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 for use inside a desktop session only. It is not recommended to use xdg-open as root.

Similar to open, xdg-open also opens the files in the background. The only problem that I noticed with xdg-open is that although xdg-open does not print anything on the screen by default when launched the actual applications used to open the file (eg. libreoffice) can sometimes, which may not what you would want. To work around it, I have defined an alias in my .bash_alias file like this:

which xdg-open 1>/dev/null && alias open='xdg-open 2>/dev/null'

The which xdg-open 1>/dev/null is useful if you share your .bash_alias between Linux and other flavour of Unixes including MacOS. Also I have renamed it to open so that I don’t have to remember which OS I am on before opening a file.

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