Quickly associate all source code files with your editor in macOS using duti

If you’re a developer using macOS you’ve probably had the experience of double clicking, say, a .js file in Finder only to inadvertantly launch the wrong application, rather than your editor of choice. It’s of course easy enough to change the association for a given file extension; per the Apple docs1:

  • Control-click the file, then choose Get Info.
  • In the Info window, click the arrow next to “Open with.”
  • Click the pop-up menu, then choose the app. To open all files of this type with this app, click Change All.
Choosing the application associated with a file extension using Finder is simple, but slow.

However, if we want to associate all source code files with our editor, this becomes tedious. Even for a single language we might have many file extensions to go through (a file in a JavaScript project could have the extension .js, .es, .es6, .cjs, .mjs, .jsx, .jsm etc.). When setting up my macOS environment I wondered if there was a way to do this via the CLI, and via Nick Ficano’s blog2 I came across duti

(TL;DR) How to associate file extensions for all programming languages with your editor

brew install duti python-yq
curl "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/github/linguist/master/lib/linguist/languages.yml" \
  | yq -r "to_entries | (map(.value.extensions) | flatten) - [null] | unique | .[]" \
  | xargs -L 1 -I "{}" duti -s com.microsoft.VSCode {} all

The above associates all source code extensions known to Github’s linguist library with VSCode. If you use a different editor, substitute com.microsoft.VSCode with:

  • Sublime Text: com.sublimetext.3 (or, presumably, com.sublimetext.4 for the forthcoming Sublime Text 4)
  • Atom: com.github.atom
  • IntelliJ: com.jetbrains.intellij
  • Other: Find your editor’s bundle ID by running: lsappinfo | grep 'bundleID="' | cut -d'"' -f2 | sort

To associate only extensions for the top ten programming languages3 (that is: JavaScript, Python, Java, TypeScript, C#, PHP, C++, C, Shell scripts and Ruby) we can instead run:

curl "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/github/linguist/master/lib/linguist/languages.yml" \
  | yq -r '{JavaScript,Python,Java,TypeScript,"C#",PHP,"C++",C,Shell,Ruby} | to_entries | (map(.value.extensions) | flatten) - [null] | unique | .[]' \
  | xargs -L 1 -I "{}" duti -s com.microsoft.VSCode {} all

That’s it, any source code files will now be opened in your editor of choice. (You might see an error failed to set com.microsoft.VSCode as handler for public.html (error -54) but this can be safely ignored4).

How it works

duti is a simple “does one thing well” utility that can associate a file extension5 with an application (which we specify using its bundle ID) like so:

brew install duti
duti -s com.some.ApplicationBundleID .someext all

Equipped with duti, we just need an exhaustive list of file extensions - across all common programming languages - to feed it. Finding such a list turned out to be non-trivial. In the end I took the data from Github’s linguist library, which keeps all programming languages known to Github collated in a YAML file. The file is very exhaustive and is updated several times a week.

languages.yml looks like this:

# ...
  type: programming
  color: "#B83998"
  - ".erl"
  - ".app.src"
  - ".es"
  - ".escript"
  - ".hrl"
  - ".xrl"
  - ".yrl"
  - Emakefile
  - rebar.config
  - rebar.config.lock
  - rebar.lock
  tm_scope: source.erlang
  ace_mode: erlang
  codemirror_mode: erlang
  codemirror_mime_type: text/x-erlang
  - escript
  language_id: 104
  type: programming
  color: "#b845fc"
  - fsharp
  - ".fs"
  - ".fsi"
  - ".fsx"
  tm_scope: source.fsharp
  ace_mode: text
  codemirror_mode: mllike
  codemirror_mime_type: text/x-fsharp
  language_id: 105
# ...

We’re only interested in the extensions field for each programming language6. We’ll use yq - a jq wrapper which can process YAML - to extract the file extensions for all known languages:

yq "to_entries | map(.value.extensions)" languages.yml
  // ...
  // ...

Next we’ll flatten this (flatten), remove null values (- [null]), and remove duplicates (unique):

yq "to_entries | (map(.value.extensions) | flatten) - [null] | unique" languages.yml
  // ...
  // ...

Next we add the .[] operator, and the -r (output raw strings) flag, to output our extensions as plaintext, one per line:

yq -r "to_entries | (map(.value.extensions) | flatten) - [null] | unique | .[]" languages.yml
# ...
# ...

Now we have something that we can pipe through to xargs. We use -L 1 to specify that we should run our command for each line, and -I "{}" means we’ll substitute {} with each extension in turn:

yq -r "to_entries | (map(.value.extensions) | flatten) - [null] | unique | .[]" languages.yml \
  | xargs -L 1 -I "{}" duti -s com.microsoft.VSCode {} all

Or reading languages.yml straight from Github:

curl "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/github/linguist/master/lib/linguist/languages.yml" \
  | yq -r "to_entries | (map(.value.extensions) | flatten) - [null] | unique | .[]" languages.yml \
  | xargs -L 1 -I "{}" duti -s com.microsoft.VSCode {} all

As well as being a big timesaver, I think the script above is a nice example of the Unix philosophy in action. We have four simple programs which each do one thing well:

  • curl to fetch the programming languages data from the linguist repo
  • yq to process the YAML data
  • xargs to run a command for each data point
  • duti to set the file extension association


  1. Source: Apple: Choose an app to open a file on Mac
  2. Source: Change Mac OS default file associations from the command line with duti
  3. According to Github’s 2020 State of the Octoverse survey
  4. See this issue: duti#29
  5. Or, more technically, a Uniform Type Identifier.
  6. Note that since I ignore the .filenames field, extensionless source code files like Makefile won’t be associated with your editor. You could rerun the command with .extensions substituted in the yq command with .filenames if you wanted, although I haven’t tested this.

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