I know I want to open all files of type "blah"" with application "foo". OK, I have to find all possible types of files for application foo and make sure. And some types of files have multiple file types, for example images. Have you tried using this technique to change image viewer? Especially when you want to do it for someone else quickly (like a very impatient wife who will get mad that some images still get open in the wrong viewer)?
This is I am sorry, but one of the most moronic design decisions ever made. And I was one of the original GNOME developers (I'm not anymore due to time and lack of interest not due to to some hatered of GNOME), so I don't feel bad about complaining about GNOME.
The problem with current UI design (and this includes GNOME and many other UIs) is that it is inflexible and unimaginative.
The very fact of the above question being out there, and even being asked by very knowledgable people, is evidence that something is wrong. The solution is not to point the person to the "correct" way to do things, but ask yourself, why is it that this person is having trouble?
Setting file associations is one of the very very frustrating things about gnome. It is in fact one of the reasons I don't use GNOME nowdays, among other things. But I remember being very frustrated for about 30 minutes or so trying to figure this out. And even then, using the given interface is very very frustrating even if you know how to do it. UI should not be frustrating.
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