cannot create "custom" preferred applications

Bug #708382 reported by Kees Cook on 2011-01-26
This bug affects 81 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
gnome-control-center (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

Binary package hint: gnome-control-center

In gnome-default-applications-properties I can no longer specify custom applications for things like the browser or email.

ProblemType: Bug
DistroRelease: Ubuntu 11.04
Package: gnome-control-center 1:2.32.1-0ubuntu3
ProcVersionSignature: Ubuntu 2.6.37-12.26-generic 2.6.37
Uname: Linux 2.6.37-12-generic x86_64
Architecture: amd64
Date: Wed Jan 26 15:08:23 2011
 PATH=(custom, user)
SourcePackage: gnome-control-center

Kees Cook (kees) wrote :
Changed in gnome-control-center (Ubuntu Natty):
milestone: none → natty-alpha-3
Kees Cook (kees) wrote :

This appears related at least to 140_backport_default_internet_apps.patch which stops even loading the XML files from /usr/share/gnome-control-center/default-apps (why does firefox ship an XML file there?)

Chris Coulson (chrisccoulson) wrote :

The patch is a backport of the GNOME 3.0 panel.

The XML file shipped by Firefox is legacy, and I'll remove it for the next upload. This is all done by desktop files and mimetypes now, which is why it doesn't load the legacy XML files anymore.

Kees Cook (kees) wrote :


mkdir -p ~/.local/share/applications
cp /usr/share/applications/firefox.desktop ~/.local/share/applications/custom-browser.desktop
*edit custom-browser.desktop for what I want*
update-desktop-database ~/.local/share/applications

tags: added: regression-release
Brian Murray (brian-murray) wrote :

I used to have my mail reader set to open a terminal with mutt running and this is no longer possible which is no longer possible. Additionally, in my mind this is causes some data loss as I don't remember how exactly I had it setup and I really shouldn't have to remember this - my computer should help me remember things and not forget them for me.

Changed in gnome-control-center (Ubuntu Natty):
importance: Undecided → Medium
status: New → Confirmed
Martin Pitt (pitti) wrote :

Assigning to Mike for now, as he did the backport. This should affect upstream gnome 3 as well, presumably?

Changed in gnome-control-center (Ubuntu Natty):
assignee: nobody → Michael Terry (mterry)
milestone: natty-alpha-3 → ubuntu-11.04-beta-1
Michael Terry (mterry) wrote :

Yes, upstream control center (at time of backport at least) did not allow custom entries at all. Assuming that's still the case, is there anything we want to do about this?

Michael Terry (mterry) wrote :

mpt has confirmed that this should be considered a regression. He proposed maybe one future solution is to add an "Other..." entry to the dropdown that popped up a dialog.

Alex Murray (alexmurray) wrote :

This also affects other mail applications like gnome-gmail (bug #729357) and desktop-webmail since neither can set themselves as the default mail application - at the moment there is a patch for gnome-gmail in the attached bug, but it would seem a better solution would be to fix this in gnome-control-center so all apps work like they did previously, rather than having to patch each app's desktop file individually.

David Steele (daves) wrote :

The patched gnome-gmail still has two problems which you may want to address here. When enabled, the file browser does not have an 'email' choice in the "Send To..." transport options, and there remains a "Configure Email..." entry in a top menu, which launches Evolution. Both behaviors are new.

David Steele (daves) wrote :

... also, gnome-gmail 1.7.2 will offer to configure itself as the preferred application, when launched from the Internet menu. This was added for Fedora, which removed the Preferred Applications dialog.

I agree that the control-center fix is preferable. Ideally, gnome-gmail would have no UI.

Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

that's an upstream design decision and not likely something that will be worked for natty, common cases should be handled by softwares shipping a .desktop, special cases can be workaround by creating a .desktop by hand rather

Changed in gnome-control-center (Ubuntu Natty):
milestone: ubuntu-11.04-beta-1 → none
assignee: Michael Terry (mterry) → nobody
importance: Medium → Wishlist
summary: - [regression] cannot create "custom" preferred applications
+ cannot create "custom" preferred applications
Julian Taylor (jtaylor) wrote :

how is one then supposed to change e.g. the email client from evolution to thunderbird or the default brower from firefox to opera?
pointing users to edit gconf is not exactly a user friendly solution for this basic task.

Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

by opening the dialog and selecting the one to use in the combo box?

Julian Taylor (jtaylor) wrote :

this does not offer any choice, only evolution and firefox, so the dialog is useless.
(sorry if this is a different issue, my report (bug 729603) was closed and linked to this one)

Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

one of the issues is bug #719919, the other one is an opera bug

mlaverdiere (mlaverdiere) wrote :

Now on Natty Beta 1 (freshly updated), the problem appears not only related to browser/mail apps, but also to multimedia player, since Banshee is not registered as one available multimedia app. (while it's now the default music player!), but instead as a personalized selection... See screenshot 1 attached,

This lead to another problem, as the Totem icon/app. appears as the application to launch to "listen to music" in the Ubuntu-Upper-right menu, instead of Banshee. See screenshot 2 attached in the following post.

So my take on this is that this report should not be treated as a "wish", but as a bug. There's a problem (lack of coherence, attention, etc.) somewhere with 1) how default applications registered themselves in the Gnome/Unity framework; and 2) How the user can change this selection.


mlaverdiere (mlaverdiere) wrote :
levu (levu) wrote :

For Opera it worked when i added the following to the .desktop file:


Something similar would propably solve the problem for the other apps.

However, there should be a possibility to set the default app via gconf/dconf. If i change it there the change is reverted when opening gnome-default-application-properties...

mlaverdiere (mlaverdiere) wrote :

Indeed, using gconf-editor may allow to set some default app. (but that's obviously a workaround, since a regular user should be able to rely on something more straightforward, i.e. a working gnome-default-applications-properties). But even with gconf-editor, you can't select a mailer, since there's no specific option (key) available for this... See screenshot attached.

Julian Taylor (jtaylor) wrote :

I have forwarded the bug to add scheme-handlers to the desktop file to opera.

EricDHH (ericdhh) wrote :

natty 110.4 beta i386, patchlevel today

I have to add that the upper panel complain about the missing mail configuration, cause thunderbird was not accepted as mail application.

If I may (as it might not be related but then please direct me to the correct branch) I can no longer override any of the fixed applications settings, e.g. system terminal:

1. "GNOME Terminal" is already one of the predefined applications,
2. choose Custom,
3. put in "gnome-terminal" as a command,
4. as soon as you put "l" in the text field, selection switches to predefined "GNOME Terminal" with fixed "-x" flag, therefore you cannot add any more flags like "--full-screen" for that matter.

So, when fixing this lack of customisation for e-mail, please, remember about removing described above behaviour as well.

Joshua Rubin (rubixconsulting) wrote :

Here is a copy of a .desktop file that you can use and put in ~/.local/share/applications as a workaround, name the file whatever you want, for me it is mailto.desktop. mailto, for me, is a script in ~/bin/mailto

[Desktop Entry]
Exec=mailto %u

After you save that file, run:
update-desktop-database ~/.local/share/applications/

Then you should be able to select it in "Preferred Applications".

mlaverdiere (mlaverdiere) wrote :

Now on Natty Beta 1 with latest updates, the problem appears to be solved, i.e. I'm able to select another mailer. However, in some panels of the gnome-default-applications-properties, some Asian characters are showing up along with the name of the default selected app (does this needs another bug report?).

I just want to say that the workaround listed above works for me. However the "Custom" choice still doesn't appear in the dropdown.

Alan Bryant (alan-alanbryant) wrote :

Looks like this has not been commented on in a few days, but I am still experiencing the problem.

My issue, however, is only with the email setting. I uninstalled Evolution to see if that would help, but now I just don't have anything associated with the email setting in Preferred Applications.

I have Gnome-Gmail installed as well as Desktop Webmail and neither of them show up.

All of the other settings (Browser, Multimedia, Terminal, etc.) allow you to choose other options, but Email does not.

What other information would I be able to post to help find out where the problem is?

Ubuntu 11.04 Release/ Unity

David Steele (daves) wrote :

FYI, gnome-gmail-1.7.2-1ubuntu3, in ppa:daves/daves, has the fix that adds GNOME Gmail back into the Preferred Applications selection list. Per bug #729357, the problem was the missing x-scheme-handler mimetype in the desktop file.

Alan Bryant (alan-alanbryant) wrote :

Thank you David, the update you posted worked perfectly for me.

warjowuch (lulkoek) wrote :

I still have NO option for custom commands in preffered applications?
I mean, no custom commands for mailer and browser. On the other tabs the options are there.
I should be able to change firefox to firefox %s, without changing config-files...

mac.ryan (macryan) wrote :

Same problem here. Is there anybody able to post a workaround for using Claws mail?

David Steele (daves) wrote :

For a pointer to a workaround, see comment #28 above.

abi (abi-dracos) wrote :

All I want is to set Opera to run with a -newwindow switch by default, is that so hard?

Colan Schwartz (colan) wrote :

@abi: Here's how I did that for Chrome, using #24. You can do this for any browser:

1) Get a copy of your existing one (from /usr/share/applications/chromium-browser.desktop).
2) Edit the Exec line to add the switch. I added "--new-window".
3) Call the file something like "chromium-browser-new-window.desktop".
4) Stick it in ~/.local/share/applications.

abssorb (abssorb) wrote :

In addition to this problem, when I installed Google chrome as a browser, I was able to set this in preferred applications. Since then, the option for chrome has disappeared, and 11.04 now insists my default browser is firefox. Using the chrome "set as default" option has no effect either.

Plus this bug - can't set a custom option, so can;t get "mailto" links to work in gmail.

hermes60 (rhopgood60) wrote :

What is the point of having this as an option IF YOU CANNOT CHANGE it.
For Preferred EMail Client I get ONLY Evolution. No Custom, no Thunderbird, no anything else.

I get very frustrated when things like this get broken in new releases. Quit looking at adding bells & whistles and focus on stability and usability.

ThorX89 (thorx89) wrote :

It's really annoying when you have to get into the whole google-forum-bug_report circle just to get a thing working which used to work just fine until a new release came out and blew it at the expense at some new fancy irrelevant modification.

Like warjowuch and hermes60. I try to change my default email client, in my case from Evolution to Eudora, though. I can't.

No other options but "Evolution" or "Evolution Mail and Calendar". I wonder, what is de difference?

Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

you should fix eudora to ship a .desktop with the correct mimetype

NullZer0 (nullzero-free) wrote :

Before remove evolution

NullZer0 (nullzero-free) wrote :

After remove evolution (Ubuntu 11.04)

Note that I have installed Desktop Webmail and it should appear in the list. (Both before and after remove evolution)

Jangari (jangari) wrote :

I use alpine as my email handler. After upgrading, clicking mailto: links no longer works as it has inexplicably removed the option to set a custom command, meaning I have to copy-paste email addresses.

I expect this kind of regressive upgrade and tight restriction on program use from Mac (no hope of setting Alpine as my email handler there), but not for Ubuntu. Downgrading to 10.10 when I get the chance.


Woonjas (woonjas) wrote :

Any idea when this is going to be fixed in Natty?
Clean install and there is still NO custom/other option available for browser and email.

Matthew Brigdan (mbrigdan) wrote :

I'll confirm that this bug still exists, and is still rather annoying. I can't get gmail to be my mail handler, even with gnome-gmail installed.

David Steele (daves) wrote :

To get gnome-gmail working, do one of the following:

1) add an x-scheme-handler to the desktop file a la

2) Install gnome-gmail 1.8.1, available at

3) Upgrade to Oneiric on or after Thursday.

komputes (komputes) on 2012-03-20
tags: added: css-sponsored-p
Vanessa Cox (vanessa-cox) wrote :

Redirected from Bug #729603, the default mail and browser applications can not be changed, this should NOT be wishlist - there is no point having an option to set a default browser when there is only one possible option!

This is a severe usability issue and should be considered as such.

Sean DS (se4n-1) wrote :

This bug is present in Precise

Sean DS (se4n-1) wrote :

Also I noticed this, I have a windows partition and I can't change my default calendar from OUTLOOK, I have never used outlook but yet there it is!!!! WHAT?

Also changing it is a non trivial job based on update-alternatives, not something I want to do in front of new users of ubuntu who also have outlook on there MS partitions...

Please lets see this bug fixed for Precise...

Colan Schwartz (colan) on 2012-03-25
tags: added: oneiric precise
Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

@Vanessa: there is not only one option, browsers should register and be listed there, epiphany (the GNOME browser), firefox and chromium do it at least

Changed in gnome-control-center (Ubuntu):
status: Confirmed → Triaged
Changed in gnome-control-center (Ubuntu Natty):
status: Confirmed → Won't Fix
Colan Schwartz (colan) wrote :

By that logic Chrome should have 2 entries, the default one and another one with the "--new-window" option. So I should file a bug against chromium-browser (Ubuntu) to add this entry?

Sebastien Bacher (seb128) wrote :

The way upstream GNOME recommends is what firefox does, ship a .desktop and have a preference option in the browser to choice if urls should be opened in tab or new instances

Colan Schwartz (colan) wrote :
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