David A. Wheeler's Blog

Sat, 03 Jul 2010

Opening files and URLs from the command line

Nearly all operating systems have a simple command to open up a file, directory, or URL from the command line. This is useful when you’re using the command line, e.g., xdg-open . will pop up a window in the current directory on most Unix/Linux systems. This capability is also handy when you’re writing a program, because these are easy to invoke from almost any language. You can then pass it a filename (to open that file using the default application for that file type), a directory name to start navigating in that directory (use “.” for the current directory), or a URL like “http://www.dwheeler.com” to open a browser at that URL.

Unfortunately, the command to do this is different on different platforms.

My new essay How to easily open files and URLs from the command line shows how to do this.

For example, on Unix/Linux systems, you should use xdg-open (not gnome-open or kde-open), because that opens the right application given the user’s current environment. On MacOS, the command is “open”. On Windows you should use start (not explorer, because invoking explorer directly will ignore the user’s default browser setting), while on Cygwin, the command is “cygstart”. More details are in the essay, including some gotchas and warnings.

Anyway, take a look at: How to easily open files and URLs from the command line

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