How to set Firefox and Thunderbird by default on Debian

Users Debian we know that in our repositories we don't have Firefox y Thunderbird, but a fork of both with the name Iceweasel e icedove respectively.

The bad thing about Iceweasel e icedove is that we must wait for them to be updated in the repositories and many times, they are too late with respect to the stable versions of both applications. For example, still in Debian is the version 3.1.16-1 de icedove and how can you find out Thunderbird goes for version 10.

When using Firefox y Thunderbird In the way that I show you now, it gives us the advantage that we can update directly from the Internet, or simply replace the folders with the applications with each new version. In this way we will always be updated. The method that I show you now, also gives us the possibility of putting both applications "by default" in the System. Well, enough talk and let's get to it.

Table of Contents


The first thing we do is download firefox from the official site. Then we unzip the folder and copy it to / opt / firefox /. We open a terminal and put:

$ wget -c
$ bzip2 -dc firefox-10.0.1.tar.bz2 | tar -xv
$ sudo mv firefox /opt/
$ sudo chown -R <su_usuario>/opt/firefox/

We have Firefox ready to use, but it doesn't appear in the menu yet, nor is it the default browser. To do this, we first create a symbolic link of the path where the executable of Firefox, towards the directory / usr / bin /.

$ sudo ln -s /opt/firefox/firefox /usr/bin/firefox

Now we create a file inside / usr / share / applications / called firefox.desktop and we put this inside:

[Desktop Entry] Name = Firefox GenericName = Web Browser Comment = Browse the internet Exec = / opt / firefox / firefox% u Terminal = false Icon = / opt / firefox / icons / mozicon128.png Type = Application Categories = Application; Network; WebBrowser; MimeType = text / html; text / xml; application / xhtml + xml; application / xml; application / vnd.mozilla.xul + xml; application / rss + xml; application / rdf + xml; image / gif; image / jpeg; image / png; StartupWMClass = Firefox-bin StartupNotify = true

And finally we do that Firefox be the default browser by putting this in the terminal:

$ sudo update-alternatives --install  /usr/bin/x-www-browser x-www-browser /opt/firefox/firefox 100


In the case of Thunderbird the process is very similar. First we download Thunderbird from the official site. Then we unzip the folder and copy it to / opt / thunderbird /. We open a terminal and put:

$ wget -c
$ bzip2 -dc thunderbird-10.0.1.tar.bz2 | tar -xv
$ sudo mv thunderbird /opt/
$ sudo chown -R <su_usuario>/opt/thunderbird/

We create the symbolic link in / usr / bin:

$ sudo ln -s /opt/thunderbird/thunderbird /usr/bin/thunderbird

Now we create a file inside / usr / share / applications / called thunderbird.desktop and we put this inside:

[Desktop Entry] Name = Thunderbird GenericName = Email Client Comment = Check your emails Exec = / opt / thunderbird / thunderbird% u Terminal = false Icon = / opt / thunderbird / chrome / icons / default / default256.png Type = Application Categories = Application; Network; MailClient; Email; News; GTK; MimeType = message / rfc822; StartupWMClass = Thunderbird-bin StartupNotify = true

Finally, to make Thunderbird be the default application to check emails, we put in the terminal:

$ sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/x-mail-client x-mail-client /opt/thunderbird/thunderbird 10

Ready, now we will have both applications as default in Debian and we will be updated with the next versions that are coming out at the moment 😀

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  1.   Courage said

    It is what I did not like about Debian, the intolerance of Firefox, which always resisted installation

  2.   Christopher said

    In Sid they are updated, well at least Iceweasel is in version 10.0.1 and Icedove is in version 8.

    1.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

      That is a point that I have never liked about Debian, it took a long time to update the versions until they reached 9, and I am talking about Iceweasel ... because Icedove is still in v8. Why this immense delay? O_O ...

      1.    Ares said

        The delay is because they do not have a budget of 300 million dollars a year to allow themselves to waste effort putting out versions like sausages just to keep up with a phallic complex with the version.

      2.    Ares said

        Also remember that in Debian stability matters a lot (as it should be) and it is already "the norm" that the versions released by Mozilla in a short time (days or hours) will be patched with something, so better wait for the corrected product to come out and "Final" and not rush with the version that was released just to meet the date.

    2.    elav <° Linux said

      Yes, but this is good for Testing or Stable users 😀

  3.   pandev92 said

    You can always try to install a deb of ubuntu or mint.

    1.    Courage said

      You are degrading yourself ... Now in sight ...

      1.    pandev92 said

        I write from the institute, and windows vista professional xD is installed, heavy.

      2.    emegeve said

        More downgrading: now to Windows Millenium.

        1.    Courage said

          As i don't get it

    2.    elav <° Linux said

      What's the point of it? Also, it would have to depend on updating the Ubuntu or Mint .deb's.

      1.    pandev92 said

        He was talking about Linux mint debian, which is supposed to have the firefox debs in its repository, the other thing is that it is as simple as going to the repository and downloading only the deb as many times as you want, I do not see it so crazy.

  4.   Maxwell said

    Don't you think it's easier to make use of Debian backports? At the end of the day there isn't much difference between Iceweasel and Firefox, so you avoid dependency and version conflicts.


    1.    elav <° Linux said

      No, because we still depend on "someone else" updating the packages.

      1.    Maxwell said

        I understand, but I still think it's more comfortable, unless the latest version has critical bug fixes, I don't see much of a case for updating. Thing of taste.


  5.   Santiago said

    Very good article.
    I had installed it like this a while ago, but I had a problem when opening attached files in thunderbird, or downloading files with firefox, which at the time of opening them did not propose the default programs for the type of file in question (Ex: Evince for PDFs), so I had to download the file and then open it from Thunar.
    With Iceweasel and Icedove that failure worked for me.


  6.   Oscar said

    Today I was forced to install Firefox 12, I had no problems with using Iceweasel but since it was updated in testing to version 10.0.4, it freezes when I open any video or on pages that, to view them properly, you need the flashplugin . The truth is that it is very fast. Thanks for the tuto.

  7.   analani said

    Hello! I need help, everything correct except sudo chown -R / opt / firefox /
    It gives me an error I have tried in all the ways, maybe I am missing a package. Thank you

  8.   eliotime3000 said

    It is easier to go to and follow the steps indicated on the page (except for adding the official backport, since it makes an insecure download so the repo is enough to install it ); then, write in the terminal in superuser mode "apt-get install -t squeeze-backports iceweasel-l10n-es-es" (You can use the package in Spanish from Spain and / or another from Mexico, Argentina and / or other valid country).

    For testing, you must add the experimental repo, since this way you have the version that is on par with Firefox.

    I enjoy Iceweasel which is on par with Firefox on my Debian Squeeze, and I have no problem with it.

  9.   Nahutiluz said

    A luxury, it worked, it does not have the logo of the inverted fox but the result is as expected ...
    Firefox 40!

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