Linux open Command


In this guide, we will demonstrate using the open command in Linux.


To perform the steps demonstrated in this guide, you will need the following components:

  • A properly configured Linux system. For testing, consider using a Linux VM.
  • Basic understanding of the command-line interface.

The open command

In Linux, the open command is a CLI tool that attempts to open a specified file, directory, or URL using the default program.
Check out the following example:


Here, the open command will open the URL on the default web browser.

open vs xdg-open

Some Linux systems use xdg-open (part of the xdg-utils package) instead of the open command. In practice, they both behave the same:


To rectify this, we can create an alias for the xdg-open command. The following example demonstrates creating a temporary Bash alias:

Verify if the alias was created successfully:

Note that various command arguments of the open command won’t work with xdg-open. Some distros implement the open command as a symlink to xdg-open (Ubuntu, for example).

Using the open Command

Opening Text Files
To open a text file in the default text editor/viewer, run the following command:

Opening an URL
If we attempt to open a URL, the expected behavior is to open the URL in the default web browser.


Opening a File using a Specific App
If not specified, the open command will use the default app to open the specified file/URL. However, we can specify a different program to use when attempting to open the file.

To open with a different program, the command structure is as follows:

We can also specify what app to use using bundle identifier:

Note that it won’t work with xdg-open.

Opening a File in a New Program Instance
If the file-associated program is already running, then open will use the already-running instance. In some situations, however, we may want to open the file in a new program instance.

To open the file with a new program instance, use the “-n” flag:

Note that this method will also not work with xdg-open.

Final Thoughts

In this guide, we demonstrated using the open command on Linux. It takes a file, directory, or URL as an argument and launches the default program designated to handle it.

Interested in learning about other Linux commands? Check out the Linux commands sub-category.

Happy computing!

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