I am using i3wm on an up-to-date arch installation, and I would love to know how to change the application to open for the save/open file dialog.

How to reproduce

  • If I open okular and select "Open File" I am greeted by an ugly file manager
  • If I click "save PDF" in chromium the same app opens up

What I have tried

  • set the default in exo-preferred-applications
  • set manually in every mime config file I could find on my machine (inode/directory=Nautilus.desktop;)
  • and a bunch of other fixes I found online
  • xdg-open and mimeo are opening the right app when opening a directory

I also have gnome installed on my PC, and when starting up chrome on this desktop manager it opens nautilus, so I think it might be handled by the desktop/window manager, thus i3 in my case.

  • I have the same problem (except that I have Nautilus and want Nemo) and it looks like what we're seeing is toolkit-dependent "file chooser" dialog window, and not an actual launched file manager window. According to the interwebz it is set and configured by the toolkit (GTK+, Qt...) and cannot be changed.
    – Deuxis
    Jul 3, 2018 at 15:17
  • Are you sure it's not because you've used Nautilus.desktop instead of nautilus.desktop?
    – mchid
    Oct 22, 2022 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Using pstree you can view okular and any sub-processes with and without the file dialog open. What you'll find is that is the file dialog in is not a spawned process, it's part of the app itself. The way it looks it governed by the libraries the application is written with and the theme applied to that library.

It may appear that the app is using different file picker apps depending on the versions of libraries involved and what themes and icons are applied to it.

The most popular graphics libraries are QT and GTK. You can review how to apply uniform themes to both QT and GTK apps.

KDE-focused apps like Okular are generally written the QT library while Chromium and Gnome-focused apps use the GTK library.

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