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How to set the program defaults in XFCE

Are you looking to change the default programs on your XFCE desktop on Linux? Not sure how to do it? We can help! Follow along as we go over how to set the program defaults in XFCE!

Set “Preferred Applications” in XFCE

Like many other desktop environments, XFCE has a “Preferred Applications” area in settings that let users decide the default programs that the desktop environment will use. To access the “Preferred Applications” area in XFCE, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Step 1: Open up the XFCE Application Finder by pressing Alt + F2 on the keyboard.

Step 2: In the Application Finder window, write out “xfce4-settings-manager” in the text box, and click on the “Launch” button to instantly gain access to the XFCE settings area. Alternatively, search for the XFCE settings in your app menu.


Step 3: In the XFCE settings area, locate the “Personal” section. From there, click on the “Preferred Applications” shortcut.

Upon clicking on the “Preferred Application” shortcut in the XFCE settings area window, you will notice the “Preferred Application” window. Follow along below to learn how to change the default apps on your system.

Web Browser

The default web browser on 99% of XFCE-based Linux desktop environments is Firefox or Firefox ESR (Extended Release). The reason that Firefox is often the default is that it is open-source, modern, and fast.

If you’re not happy with using Firefox on your XFCE Linux desktop, you’ll be able to change it by clicking on the “Internet” tab and then switching the drop-down menu under “Web Browser” from “Firefox” to another browser.

Mail Reader

Thunderbird is the email client of choice on most XFCE desktops, as it is reliable, lightweight, and does its job. That said, Thunderbird isn’t the only email client available on Linux, and not everyone likes using it.

If you’re one of those people that loathe using Thunderbird, for whatever reason, you’ll be happy to know that it is possible to change it as the default email client on XFCE. First, click on the “Internet” tab in the “Preferred Applications” area. Then, find the drop-down menu under “Mail Reader” and change it from Thunderbird to the email client you prefer.

File Manager

Thunar is the default file manager in XFCE, and it’s a darn good one. It’s incredibly lightweight, yet manages to pack in incredible features. That said, not everyone wants to use Thunar on XFCE, and that’s ok.

To change the default file manager on XFCE from Thunar, do the following. First, locate the “Utilities” tab, and click on it with the mouse. Then, find “File Manager” and change it from “Thunar” to the file manager you’d like to use.

Terminal Emulator

XFCE’s default terminal emulator is pretty standard as far as terminal apps go. It supports tabs and a lot of essential features you’d expect in a Linux terminal program. However, it’s not the best in the world.

If you’re not interested in using the default terminal app in XFCE, here’s how to change it. First, find the “Utilities” section of “Preferred Applications.” Then, locate “Terminal Emulator” and click on the drop-down menu underneath it to swap to a different terminal app.

File defaults in XFCE with file manager

While XFCE does not have nearly as robust “Preferred Application” options as Mate does, users are still able to change the default apps for many programs via the Thunar file manager. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Open up the Thunar file manager on the XFCE desktop.

Step 2: Find the file in the Thunar file manager which you’d like to change the defaults for and right-click on it with the mouse. For example, if you have an MP4 file opening in Totem, but you’d like to change it so the video opens in VLC, locate it, and right-click on it.

Step 3: In the right-click menu in the Thunar file manager, find “Properties” and select it to access the settings for the individual file.

Step 4: Look through the “Properties” window for “Open With.” Once you’ve found it, click on the drop-down menu to change the default program for the file.

Repeat this process for each file you’d like to change the default program association for on XFCE.

Program defaults – Mime Type Editor

While it is possible to change the default programs that files use in the Thunar file manager, it is also possible to do this with the Mime Type Editor. Follow the step-by-step instructions below to learn how to use it to change default file associations in XFCE.

 Step 1: Press Alt + F2 to open up the Program Finder window. Then write in the command below to access the XFCE Mime Type Editor.


Step 2: Find the “filter” box, and type out the name of the file you’d like to change program associations for.

Step 3: Find the “Default Application” column and select “Choose Application.”

Step 4: Choose the new default program for the file.

Repeat the process for all files that you’d like to change the default program association for on the XFCE desktop.

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