The problem

There are a number of actions that can be performed by many different applications that a desktop user might want to choose a default application for.

Which program should be used to play CD's, which program should open webpages, etc.

Gnome currently has two programs to configure this: gnome-volume-properties and gnome-default-applications-properties


This program has no dropdown-menus, no idea about which programs are installed (?) and it is hard for all users to know if they should use %m or %d (and what they mean!)


This program tries to figure out which programs are installed from a hardcoded list and let's the user choose between those. It also allows the user to type a custom command.


List of actions from the two programs above

  • Browse Web
  • Read Email
  • Play Multimedia
  • Open Terminal
  • Read Screen
  • Play Audio CD
  • Play DVD
  • Manage Music Player Device
  • Import Photos
  • Edit Video
  • Scan Image

The solution

Idea 1: new properties in .desktop files

Add something like

X-Action-?BrowseWeb=firefox %s

to the .desktop files.

This would then be used by the appropriate settings programs to present a list of available applications to the user to choose from.

Idea 2: depend on mime types

Some of these actions have corresponding mime types, and fake/new mime types could be added to the .desktop-files which the appropriate settings programs would use to present a list of available programs to the user.

However, this would not allow the programs to specify in which way they should be called.

Browse Web text/html