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How to set the program defaults in KDE Plasma 5

KDE Plasma 5 has an excellent set of default applications, but they’re not for everyone. Thankfully, Plasma 5 has a robust set of settings that allow the user to customize and change the program defaults easily. Unsure how to customize and change the program defaults in KDE Plasma 5? We’ve got your back! Follow along as we go over how to customize and tweak the default applications on the Plasma 5 desktop, and more!

Access default applications settings

Like most things in KDE, the default application configuration area is tucked away in the system settings area. To access it, you’ll need to open up the KDE System Settings application.

To access the KDE System Settings app, go to the Plasma panel and click on the app menu launcher. From there, you can type “System Settings” and launch the app with that label.

In the System Settings app, find the left-hand sidebar in the window and scroll to the “Personalization” section.

Under the Personalization section, find the “Applications” icon and click on it to access the default settings area.

Note: Can’t find “Applications” in the System Settings app? An alternative way to access the default settings in KDE Plasma is to type in “Default Applications” in the app menu. Once you do that, click on the app with “Default Applications,” and you’ll be able to access the settings that way.

Setting defaults with KDE Plasma Settings

Setting the default applications in KDE Plasma 5 is separated by applications. In this section, we’ll go over how you can change what the Plasma desktop considers the default apps to use for Email, File Management, Terminal commands, and browsing the web.

Email client

KMail is the email client of choice for the KDE Plasma 5 desktop environment. If you’re not a fan of it, you can quickly change it by locating the “Email Client” section.

Once in the “Email Client” section, select the “Use a different email client” button. Then, click the browse button to set it to the email app you prefer to use on KDE.

File manager

There’s no doubt that the KDE Plasma 5 file manager is powerful and useful. Still, it’s not for everyone. To change the default file manager in KDE, find the “File Manager” section and click on it.

When you’ve made your way to the “File Manager” section, check the box next to an alternative file manager in place of Dolphin.

Terminal emulator

Many Linux users have a favorite terminal app, so it’s pretty cool to see that KDE Plasma 5 lets users tell the desktop what terminal application to use.

To set the default terminal application in Plasma, find “Terminal Emulator” in the settings app and click on it. From there, select “Use a different terminal program,” and click the browse button to set the system to your preferred terminal emulator.

Web browser

Most Linux distributions (including ones that come with KDE Plasma 5) have the Firefox web browser as default. If you’re not a fan of Firefox and want to change it to a different browser, locate the “Web Browser” section, and click on it. Then, select the menu “in the following application” and use the drop-down menu to assign your favorite web browser.

Setting defaults for files in KDE Plasma 5

To set defaults for particular files in KDE Plasma 5, you’ll need to open up the Dolphin file manager. Once open, set the default for your files by following the step-by-step instructions below.

Step 1: Using Dolphin, go to the location of the file you’d like to change the defaults of.

Step 2: Right-click on the file, then, click “Properties.”

Step 3: In the “Properties” window, click the “File Type Options” button.

Step 4: Use the “File Type Options” window to change the default application that a particular file is associated with in KDE Plasma 5. Be sure to repeat this process for each file type you wish to change program associations with.

Setting program defaults – Terminal

Looking to change the defaults programs in KDE Plasma 5 with the terminal? If so, you must edit the mimeapps.list file. To edit this file, open up a terminal window and enter the command below to open up the file in Nano.

nano -w ~/.config/mimeapps.list

Now that the mimeapps.list file is open in the Nano text editor you’ll be able to see a list of all of the default programs on your system in a nice, neat list.

Using the Up and Down arrow keys, navigate the list and find the sections you’d like to edit and change the code to suit your needs. For example, if you’d like to change the default file manager in KDE Plasma from Dolphin to Thunar, you’d do:


Can’t figure out what to put to set your favorite program as default? Here’s what to do. First, use the CD command and enter /usr/share/applications/.

cd /usr/share/applications/

Next, run the ls command and view the print-out of the applications.


Take note of the program’s “.desktop” file and write it in the mimeapps.list file.

After you’re finished making changes to the default applications via Nano, save the changes by pressing Ctrl + O, and close it with Ctrl + X. KDE Plasma 5 should instantly start using the new default application choices.

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