I would like to set Atom as my default editor for open.

In order to do this, I set in my .bashrc:

export EDITOR="atom -nw"

and reload the file with source .bashrc. Anyway, when I try to open a text file through open filename, it always opens it with TextEdit.

I also tried variations of the above, such as export EDITOR=atom, or exporting VISUAL.

I am sure that .bashrc gets loaded on login.

What am I missing/doing wrong?


The open command is part of OS X and uses Finder's default “Open With…” application to open the file, just like double-clicking it in Finder. $EDITOR is used for things like fc where it is used as the default command-line editor (a replacement for vim or emacs).

To use Atom with the open command, you can select a file of the type you want in Finder, press ⌘ command+I for “Get Info”, and then change “Open With:” to Atom, and click “Change All…”.

Alternatively you can define an alias like

alias e="atom -nw"

in your .bashrc and then run e file-to-edit.txt whenever you want to edit a file in Atom.

  • Thank you. I guess I will stick to opening atom through the command line explicitly. – link Aug 2 '14 at 13:24

The actual answer is:

export EDITOR="/Applications/Atom.app/Contents/MacOS/Atom -nw"


thee's answer doesn't work for Yosemite and El Capitan - use this one instead:

defaults write com.apple.LaunchServices/com.apple.launchservices.secure LSHandlers -array-add '{LSHandlerContentType=public.plain-text;LSHandlerRoleAll=com.github.atom;}'
  • 2
    Didn't work for me – guptron Mar 1 '16 at 14:30
  • Note, this requires a restart after the command (at least it did for me on High Sierra). – golmschenk Apr 6 '18 at 19:18

Following this answer on Stackoverflow, the following command should work:

defaults write com.apple.LaunchServices LSHandlers -array-add '{LSHandlerContentType=public.plain-text;LSHandlerRoleAll=com.github.atom;}'

I am not sure how fare this works through. For me, open /etc/hosts opened the file in Atom as expected, but open demo.properties did not.

Edit: Might not work on Yosemite and above, see this answer for a modified version.

  • demo.properties possibly is not registered as a text file – user151019 Dec 27 '14 at 0:28
  • This does not work on macOS Mojave or higher. – Nanashi No Gombe Oct 31 '19 at 14:52

Just right (or control) click a file of the type you want to change and:

"Get Info" -> "Open with:" -> (Select your program of choice) -> "Change All"

You'll have to do this once for each extension (.txt, .rtf, etc.) you wish to update.

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