Emacs: Open File in External App

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Open File in External App

Here's a emacs command to open the current file or marked dired files in external app. (as if you double-clicked the file on desktop) It's useful for image files, PDF file, video, audio files.

Put this in your emacs init file.

(defun xah-open-in-external-app ()
  "Open the current file or dired marked files in external app.
The app is chosen from your OS's preference.
URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/emacs_dired_open_file_in_ext_apps.html'
Version 2016-10-15"
  (let* (
          (if (string-equal major-mode "dired-mode")
            (list (buffer-file-name))))
         ($do-it-p (if (<= (length $file-list) 5)
                     (y-or-n-p "Open more than 5 files? "))))
    (when $do-it-p
       ((string-equal system-type "windows-nt")
         (lambda ($fpath)
           (w32-shell-execute "open" (replace-regexp-in-string "/" "\\" $fpath t t))) $file-list))
       ((string-equal system-type "darwin")
         (lambda ($fpath)
            (concat "open " (shell-quote-argument $fpath))))  $file-list))
       ((string-equal system-type "gnu/linux")
         (lambda ($fpath) (let ((process-connection-type nil))
                            (start-process "" nil "xdg-open" $fpath))) $file-list))))))

Show in Desktop

The following shows the file in desktop folder viewer. (Microsoft Windows Explorer, Mac's Finder, Linux's file manager.)

(defun xah-show-in-desktop ()
  "Show current file in desktop.
 (Mac Finder, Windows Explorer, Linux file manager)
 This command be called when in a file or in `dired'.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/emacs_dired_open_file_in_ext_apps.html'
Version 2017-10-26"
  (let (($path (if (buffer-file-name) (buffer-file-name) default-directory )))
     ((string-equal system-type "windows-nt")
      (w32-shell-execute "explore" (replace-regexp-in-string "/" "\\" $path t t)))
     ((string-equal system-type "darwin")
      (if (eq major-mode 'dired-mode)
           (concat "open -R " (car (dired-get-marked-files ))))
         (concat "open -R " $path))))
     ((string-equal system-type "gnu/linux")
      (let (
            (process-connection-type nil)
            (openFileProgram (if (file-exists-p "/usr/bin/gvfs-open")
        (start-process "" nil openFileProgram $path))
      ;; (shell-command "xdg-open .") ;; 2013-02-10 this sometimes froze emacs till the folder is closed. eg with nautilus

You can give it a hotkey, see: Emacs: How to Define Keys.

Open in Terminal

Here's a command to open the current file's directory in terminal.

(defun xah-open-in-terminal ()
  "Open the current dir in a new terminal window.
URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/emacs_dired_open_file_in_ext_apps.html'
Version 2017-10-09"
   ((string-equal system-type "windows-nt")
    (message "Microsoft Windows not supported. File a bug report or pull request."))
   ((string-equal system-type "darwin")
    (let ((process-connection-type nil))
      (start-process "" nil "/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app/Contents/MacOS/Terminal" default-directory)))
   ((string-equal system-type "gnu/linux")
    (let ((process-connection-type nil))
      (start-process "" nil "x-terminal-emulator"
                     (concat "--working-directory=" default-directory))))))

Note: emacs has many shells and terminal emulators. [see Emacs: Run Shell in Emacs] But sometimes, it is necessary to run some command in dedicated terminal app.

[see Emacs: Difference between shell, term, eshell]

Current File Commands

  1. Emacs: Open File Path Under Cursor
  2. Emacs: Copy File Path of Current Buffer
  3. Emacs: Run Current File
  4. Emacs: Delete Current File
  5. Emacs: Backup Current File
  6. Emacs: Batch Convert Line Ending in Dired
  7. Emacs: Open File in External App

Dired topics

  1. Emacs: File Manager, dired
  2. Emacs: Dired Customization
  3. Emacs: Find Replace Text in Directory
  4. Emacs: Batch Rename Files
  5. Emacs: Dired Sort File by Time, Size
  6. Emacs: Open File in External App
  7. Emacs: Rename File from Space to Hyphen/Underscore
  8. Emacs: Convert Image Files in Dired

View Things Topic

  1. Emacs: Run Shell in Emacs
  2. Emacs: Spell Checking
  3. Emacs: View Linux man Page
  4. Emacs: View Info Page
  5. Emacs: View Image File
  6. Emacs: View Image Thumbnails
  7. Emacs: Eww Web Browser
  8. Emacs: Open File in External App
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