Set the Default Browser From the Command Line on a Mac — Properly

Setting the default browser while opening the browser

With Chrome and most Chromium based browsers, you can open the app from the command line and pass an argument to make it the default browser at the same time.

open -a "Google Chrome" --args --make-default-browser

Those *could* also work:

open -a "Google Chrome Dev" --args --make-default-browser
open -a "Google Chrome Beta" --args --make-default-browser
open -a "Brave Browser" --args --make-default-browser

But there are 3 big problems:

  1. It only works with some browsers.
  2. Involves opening the browser.
  3. Requires you to manually confirm your choice.

But fear not, here is the real solution you are looking for:

Setting the default browser from the command line, the right way

There is a tool aptly called defaultbrowser which you can install with this one command:

brew install defaultbrowser

(If this fails, you don’t have Homebrew installed. GET HOMEBREW. It’s good.)

Now that you have defaultbrowser installed, you can see a list of available HTTP handlers simply by running defaultbrowser and you can set a default browser by giving one of the items in the list as an argument.

defaultbrowser chrome

This is nice, but we still have to confirm our choice!

The prompt asking users to confirm they want to "change your default web browser to X"

You can quickly confirm your choice with tab+space, but how about automatic confirmation?

Automatically accept the prompt with AppleScript

There is an app called Script Editor which ships with your mac.

Open it, and paste in this bad boi:

on run argv
	do shell script "defaultbrowser " & item 1 of argv
		tell application "System Events"
			tell application process "CoreServicesUIAgent"
				tell window 1
					tell (first button whose name starts with "use")
						perform action "AXPress"
					end tell
				end tell
			end tell
		end tell
	end try
end run

Most of the script above is a direct copy/paste from Stack Exchange:

item 1 of argv is going to be the first argument you give the script.

Once your save it, you can run it with something like this:

osascript /Path/to/your/script/NameOfYourScript.scpt {a browser, could be "chrome"}

SUCCESS 🎉 But this is a rather long line. I suggest making a few aliases in your .zprofile file. (It should be at ~/.zprofile.) For instance, I have these:

alias dbb='osascript /Path/to/the/script/setDefaultBrowser.scpt beta'
alias dbc='osascript /Path/to/the/script/setDefaultBrowser.scpt chrome'

GREAT SUCCESS 🎉 Now, I can switch default browser by entering dbb or dbc + enter.

And, in case you were wondering…

Setting the default browser from System Preferences

You can change the default browser manually by opening system preferences and going to “general”, “Default web browser”.


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