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I've had success opening files from the command line if I know the program used to view the file. If I need to open a .pdf I can call evince filename. What do you do if you don't know which program name opens a certain file type? Say I have a powerpoint slides I want to open? Is there a generic way in elementary OS freya to open files similar to Mac's open command?

If you need a specific program name to open various types of files, is there a way on the command line to figure out what program will run what file type?

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Yes there is, it's called xdg-open and should be installed by default.

You can read more about it in ArchWiki:

xdg-open is a desktop-independent tool for configuring the default applications of a user. Many applications invoke the xdg-open command internally.

Inside a desktop environments like GNOME, KDE, or Xfce), xdg-open simply passes the arguments to those desktop environment's file-opener application (eg. gvfs-open, kde-open, or exo-open). which means that the associations are left up to the desktop environment.

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