Changing The Default Browser in Ubuntu (Debian-based) Linux

To get to the straight poop skip to the red text below.

I’m a web designer of sorts and I like to have a good variety of web browsers on whatever machine I’m using. At work I have a most excellent setup with OSX having Firefox, IE 5, Safari and Opera. Then I use Remote Desktop to run an XP box with IE 6 and Firefox. Between IE 6, Firefox (OSX and Windows) and Safari the bases are covered for a web designer who is trying to reach as broad a customer base as possible.

At home I mostly use my old Gateway Solo running Xubuntu 6.06. I have Firefox by default. Once upon a time this old laptop with an 8GB hard drive was dual bootable with Ubuntu and Windows 2000, but rebooting sucked. Maybe when I get the cash together to get a more powerful laptop I can use Qemu to run a virtual Windows machine to test IE. Anyway, for now I just wanted an additional browser that might show things a little differently. So I installed the Dillo browser that I had been introduced to with Damn Small Linux and Feather Linux. It will at least show me what happens when my style sheets don’t work. Dillo is really small and aside from resolving DNS addresses is very fast compared to our more graphically inclined browsers. So it works great. However this brings us to the title of this post.

After installing Dillo I soon noticed that any hyperlink that showed up in my e-mails in Thunderbird would now open in Dillo upon clicking them rather than Firefox. I didn’t really want to use Dillo that much. I went to Xubuntu’s ‘Preferred Applications’ and it insisted that Firefox was my ‘Preferred’ web browser. So I went to the internet to learn more. I found an excellent blog post on this very subject here: The Gnuru. You can read that blog post (and it looks like there are many more gems there as well) or you can continue with my attempt to simplify what you need to do. I will try to make it clear for those that might need a little more help.

So you need to switch your debian-based (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc.) Linux back to Firefox for default web browsing?

  1. Open the Terminal application (Applications/Terminal or Applications/Accessories/Terminal).
  2. After the ‘$’ sign in the terminal, type the following green text:
    sudo update-alternatives –(two dashes precede ‘config’ here. I just couldn’t get two dashes to display as two separate dashes for some reason.)-config x-www-browser

    Hit ‘Enter’. ‘sudo’ means that you are asking to do the following action with the root user’s priveledges. You will be asked for your password. The cursor will not move while you type the password. When done hit ‘Enter’ or ‘Return’.
  3. There will be some semi-legible text generated. Focus on the text similar to the picture shown below.
  4. terminal screen for x-browser default change

  5. At this point enter the number next to the browser that you want to be your default web browser and hit ‘Enter’ or ‘Return’. You will then most likely see the following output correlating with the browser you specified, not necessarily Firefox.
    Using `/usr/bin/firefox’ to provide `x-www-browser’.
    Just close the Terminal window when you’re done.

That’s all there is to it. Please let me know if my instructions were helpful.

2 thoughts on “Changing The Default Browser in Ubuntu (Debian-based) Linux”

  1. Thanks for the tip! In Kubuntu 6.06, changing the default browser using the GUI didn’t work for me. But this took care of the problem. A nice clear explanation for a newbie like me.

  2. Thanks for that, exactly waht I was looking for. The Xubuntu’s ‘Preferred Applications wasn’t changing browsers for me either

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