When I install shutter to take screenshots, imagemagick sets itself as default PDF-reader and I am unable to change it.

I would like to have evince as default PDF-reader.

I have tried right click on a PDF document in file explorer-> Properties -> Set default application-> Evince.

This does not work, imagemagick stays as default. Doing this with the file explorer opened as root works but it doesn't change the normal-user default application.

Using xdg-mime does not help either. In /etc/gnome/defaults.list the default application for PDF is evince.

And, when I remove imagemagick-6.q16, evince becomes the default application for opening PDFs, but shutter is removed too.

Am I missing something ? Where can I change this behavior ?

I have an updated version of Debian Jessie in my computer and I am using Gnome3.


I can replicate this behavior with different file explorers (tested with nemo and nautilus)

The output of XDG_UTILS_DEBUG_LEVEL=2 xdg-mime query default application/x-pdf is

Checking /home/USER/.local/share//applications/mimeapps.list
Checking /usr/share/gnome/applications/defaults.list
Checking /usr/local/share//applications/defaults.list
Checking /usr/share//applications/defaults.list

I've checked this files:

  • In /home/USER/.local/share//applications/mimeapps.list I have a line with application/pdf=evince.desktop
  • In /usr/share/gnome/applications/defaults.list the PDF reader is set to evince too.
  • In /usr/local/share/applications/defaults.list there is no reference to PDFs.
  • /usr/share/applications/defaults.list does not exist
  • 1
    Which file explorer are you talking about? Linux has dozens. What does XDG_UTILS_DEBUG_LEVEL=2 xdg-mime query default application/x-pdf output? Sep 1, 2015 at 22:46
  • I've answered your question in the EDIT 1.
    – Gypaets
    Sep 2, 2015 at 5:56
  • Hmmm. I don't understand how Gnome applications determine what application to use to open a file. If you run xdg-open somefile.pdf on the command line, what application runs? What if you use see somefile.pdf? Does running the following command help? grep 'pdf.*evince' /etc/mailcap >>~/.mailcap Sep 2, 2015 at 8:42
  • xdg-open uses imagemagick, with see the file.pdf is opened with evince-previewer. Creating .mailcap doesn't help.
    – Gypaets
    Sep 2, 2015 at 9:04

3 Answers 3


Edit the: ~/.config/mimeapps.list, and add the line:


to the [Default Applications] section. If a line for application/pdf already exists, change it instead of adding a new one.

Source: This answer on AskUbuntu.

  • Thanks, i had already set long ago 'application/pdf=evince.desktop;' but some lines further was 'image/pdf=...;', which had to be set to 'evince.desktop' too.
    – Gypaets
    Nov 1, 2015 at 9:34
  • This works for Debian/Ubuntu - based Pop! with GNOME using Nautilus.
    – Erdinc Ay
    Apr 21, 2022 at 10:14
  • rightclick on file
  • "Properties"
  • "Open with"
  • select your favourite Application
  • "Set as default"

enter image description here

Source: https://fedoramagazine.org/how-to-select-and-set-default-applications-in-fedora/


You can check the file defaults.list and change it to evince if necessary. On my system:

$ cat /usr/share/applications/defaults.list  | grep pdf
  • 10
    In a Debian system you are not supposed to change files under /usr. Your changes will be overwritten during package upgrades!
    – Jay
    Sep 26, 2017 at 7:14

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