10.1 ls: List directory contents

The ls program lists information about files (of any type, including directories). Options and file arguments can be intermixed arbitrarily, as usual.

For non-option command-line arguments that are directories, by default ls lists the contents of directories, not recursively, and omitting files with names beginning with .. For other non-option arguments, by default ls lists just the file name. If no non-option argument is specified, ls operates on the current directory, acting as if it had been invoked with a single argument of ..

By default, the output is sorted alphabetically, according to the locale settings in effect. (1) If standard output is a terminal, the output is in columns (sorted vertically) and control characters are output as question marks; otherwise, the output is listed one per line and control characters are output as-is.

Because ls is such a fundamental program, it has accumulated many options over the years. They are described in the subsections below; within each section, options are listed alphabetically (ignoring case). The division of options into the subsections is not absolute, since some options affect more than one aspect of ls''s operation.

An exit status of zero indicates success, and a nonzero value indicates failure.

Also see *Note Common options

  1. Which files are listed
  2. What information is listed
  3. Sorting the output
  4. More details about version sort
  5. General output formatting
  6. Formatting file timestamps
  7. Formatting the file names
---------- Footnotes ----------

(1) If you use a non-POSIX locale (e.g., by setting LC_ALL to en_US, then ls may produce output that is sorted differently than you're accustomed to. In that case, set the LC_ALL environment variable to C.

10.1.1 Which files are listed

These options determine which files ls lists information for. By default, any files and the contents of any directories on the command line are shown.
-a
--all List all files in directories, including files that start with ..
-A
--almost-all List all files in directories except for . and ...
-B
--ignore-backups Do not list files that end with ~, unless they are given on the command line.
-d
--directory List just the names of directories, as with other types of files, rather than listing their contents. Do not follow symbolic links listed on the command line unless the --dereference-command-line -H, --dereference -L, or --dereference-command-line-symlink-to-dir options are specified.
-H
--dereference-command-line If a command line argument specifies a symbolic link, show information for the file the link references rather than for the link itself.
--dereference-command-line-symlink-to-dir Do not dereference symbolic links, with one exception: if a command line argument specifies a symbolic link that refers to a directory, show information for that directory rather than for the link itself. This is the default behavior when no other dereferencing-related option has been specified --classify -F, --directory -d, -l, --dereference -L, or --dereference-command-line -H).
-I PATTERN
--ignore=PATTERN Do not list files whose names match the shell pattern (not regular expression) PATTERN unless they are given on the command line. As in the shell, an initial . in a file name does not match a wildcard at the start of PATTERN. Sometimes it is useful to give this option several times. For example,
          $ ls --ignore=.??* --ignore=.[^.] --ignore='#*
The first option ignores names of length 3 or more that start with ., the second ignores all two-character names that start with . except .., and the third ignores names that start with #.
-L
--dereference When showing file information for a symbolic link, show information for the file the link references rather than the link itself. However, even with this option, ls still prints the name of the link itself, not the name of the file that the link points to.
-R
--recursive List the contents of all directories recursively.

10.1.2 What information is listed

These options affect the information that ls displays. By default, only file names are shown.
--author List each file's author when producing long format directory listings. In GNU/Hurd, file authors can differ from their owners, but in other operating systems the two are the same.
-D
--dired With the long listing -l format, print an additional line after the main output:
          //DIRED// BEG1 END1 BEG2 END2 ...

The BEGN and ENDN are unsigned integers that record the byte position of the beginning and end of each file name in the output. This makes it easy for Emacs to find the names, even when they contain unusual characters such as space or newline, without fancy searching.

If directories are being listed recursively -R, output a similar line with offsets for each subdirectory name: //SUBDIRED// BEG1 END1 ...

Finally, output a line of the form: //DIRED-OPTIONS// --quoting-style=WORD where WORD is the quoting style (*note Formatting the file names::).

Here is an actual example:

          $ mkdir -p a/sub/deeper a/sub2
          $ touch a/f1 a/f2
          $ touch a/sub/deeper/file
          $ ls -gloRF --dired a
            a:
            total 8
            -rw-r--r--  1    0 Dec  3 00:50 f1
            -rw-r--r--  1    0 Dec  3 00:50 f2
            drwxr-xr-x  3 4096 Dec  3 00:50 sub/
            drwxr-xr-x  2 4096 Dec  3 00:50 sub2/

            a/sub:
            total 4
            drwxr-xr-x  2 4096 Dec  3 00:50 deeper/

            a/sub/deeper:
            total 0
            -rw-r--r--  1 0 Dec  3 00:50 file

            a/sub2:
            total 0
          //DIRED// 49 51 86 88 123 126 162 166 222 228 288 292
          //SUBDIRED// 2 3 171 176 233 245 296 302
          //DIRED-OPTIONS// --quoting-style=literal
Note that the pairs of offsets on the //DIRED// line above delimit these names: f1, f2, sub, sub2, deeper, file. The offsets on the //SUBDIRED// line delimit the following directory names: a, a/sub, a/sub/deeper, a/sub2. Here is an example of how to extract the fifth entry name, deeper, corresponding to the pair of offsets, 222 and 228:

          $ ls -gloRF --dired a > out
          $ dd bs=1 skip=222 count=6 < out 2>/dev/null; echo
          deeper
Note that although the listing above includes a trailing slash for the deeper entry, the offsets select the name without the trailing slash. However, if you invoke ls with --dired along with an option like --escape (aka -b and operate on a file whose name contains special characters, notice that the backslash _is_ included:
          $ touch 'a b'
          $ ls -blog --dired 'a b'
            -rw-r--r--  1 0 Dec  3 00:52 a\ b
          //DIRED// 31 35
          //DIRED-OPTIONS// --quoting-style=escape

If you use a quoting style that adds quote marks (e.g., --quoting-style=c, then the offsets include the quote marks. So beware that the user may select the quoting style via the environment variable QUOTING_STYLE. Hence, applications using --dired should either specify an explicit --quoting-style=literal option (aka -N or --literal on the command line, or else be prepared to parse the escaped names.
--full-time Produce long format directory listings, and list times in full. It is equivalent to using --format=long with --time-style=full-iso (*note Formatting file timestamps::).
-g Produce long format directory listings, but don't display owner information.
-G
--no-group Inhibit display of group information in a long format directory listing. (This is the default in some non-GNU versions of ls, so we provide this option for compatibility.)
-h
--human-readable Append a size letter to each size, such as M for mebibytes. Powers of 1024 are used, not 1000; M stands for 1,048,576 bytes. Use the --si option if you prefer powers of 1000.
-i
--inode Print the inode number (also called the file serial number and index number) of each file to the left of the file name. (This number uniquely identifies each file within a particular filesystem.)
-l
--format=long
--format=verbose In addition to the name of each file, print the file type, permissions, number of hard links, owner name, group name, size, and timestamp (*note Formatting file timestamps::), normally the modification time. Normally the size is printed as a byte count without punctuation, but this can be overridden (*note Block size::). For example, -h prints an abbreviated, human-readable count, and --block-size="'1" prints a byte count with the thousands separator of the current locale. For each directory that is listed, preface the files with a line total BLOCKS, where BLOCKS is the total disk allocation for all files in that directory. The block size currently defaults to 1024 bytes, but this can be overridden (*note Block size::). The BLOCKS computed counts each hard link separately; this is arguably a deficiency. The permissions listed are similar to symbolic mode specifications (*note Symbolic Modes::). But ls combines multiple bits into the third character of each set of permissions as follows: sStTx-
If the setuid or setgid bit and the corresponding executable bit are both set.
If the setuid or setgid bit is set but the corresponding executable bit is not set.
If the sticky bit and the other-executable bit are both set.
If the sticky bit is set but the other-executable bit is not set.
If the executable bit is set and none of the above apply.
Otherwise.
Following the permission bits is a single character that specifies whether an alternate access method applies to the file. When that character is a space, there is no alternate access method. When it is a printing character (e.g., +, then there is such a method.
-n
--numeric-uid-gid Produce long format directory listings, but display numeric UIDs and GIDs instead of the owner and group names.
-o Produce long format directory listings, but don't display group information. It is equivalent to using --format=long with --no-group .
-s
--size Print the disk allocation of each file to the left of the file name. This is the amount of disk space used by the file, which is usually a bit more than the file's size, but it can be less if the file has holes. Normally the disk allocation is printed in units of 1024 bytes, but this can be overridden (*note Block size::). For files that are NFS-mounted from an HP-UX system to a BSD system, this option reports sizes that are half the correct values. On HP-UX systems, it reports sizes that are twice the correct values for files that are NFS-mounted from BSD systems. This is due to a flaw in HP-UX; it also affects the HP-UX ls program.
--si Append an SI-style abbreviation to each size, such as MB for megabytes. Powers of 1000 are used, not 1024; MB stands for 1,000,000 bytes. This option is equivalent to --block-size=si. Use the -h or --human-readable option if you prefer powers of 1024.
10.1.3 Sorting the output

These options change the order in which ls sorts the information it outputs. By default, sorting is done by character code (e.g., ASCII order).
-c
--time=ctime
--time=status
--time=use If the long listing format (e.g., -l, -o is being used, print the status change time (the ctime in the inode) instead of the modification time. When explicitly sorting by time --sort=time or -t or when not using a long listing format, sort according to the status change time.
-f Primarily, like -U'--do not sort; list the files in whatever order they are stored in the directory. But also enable -a (list all files) and disable -l, --color, and -s (if they were specified before the -f.
-r
--reverse Reverse whatever the sorting method is--e.g., list files in reverse alphabetical order, youngest first, smallest first, or whatever.
-S
--sort=size Sort by file size, largest first.
-t
--sort=time Sort by modification time (the mtime in the inode), newest first.
-u
--time=atime
--time=access If the long listing format (e.g., --format=long is being used, print the last access time (the atime in the inode). When explicitly sorting by time --sort=time or -t or when not using a long listing format, sort according to the access time.
-U
--sort=none Do not sort; list the files in whatever order they are stored in the directory. (Do not do any of the other unrelated things that -f does.) This is especially useful when listing very large directories, since not doing any sorting can be noticeably faster.
-v
--sort=version Sort by version name and number, lowest first. It behaves like a default sort, except that each sequence of decimal digits is treated numerically as an index/version number. (*Note More details about version sort::.)
-X
--sort=extension Sort directory contents alphabetically by file extension (characters after the last .; files with no extension are sorted first.

10.1.4 More details about version sort

The version sort takes into account the fact that file names frequently include indices or version numbers. Standard sorting functions usually do not produce the ordering that people expect because comparisons are made on a character-by-character basis. The version sort addresses this problem, and is especially useful when browsing directories that contain many files with indices/version numbers in their names:


           > ls -1            > ls -1v
           foo.zml-1.gz       foo.zml-1.gz
           foo.zml-100.gz     foo.zml-2.gz
           foo.zml-12.gz      foo.zml-6.gz
           foo.zml-13.gz      foo.zml-12.gz
           foo.zml-2.gz       foo.zml-13.gz
           foo.zml-25.gz      foo.zml-25.gz
           foo.zml-6.gz       foo.zml-100.gz

Note also that numeric parts with leading zeroes are considered as fractional one:
           > ls -1            > ls -1v
           abc-1.007.tgz      abc-1.007.tgz
           abc-1.012b.tgz     abc-1.01a.tgz
           abc-1.01a.tgz      abc-1.012b.tgz
This functionality is implemented using the strverscmp function. *Note String/Array Comparison: (libc)String/Array Comparison. One result of that implementation decision is that ls -v does not use the locale category, LC_COLLATE. As a result, non-numeric prefixes are sorted as if LC_COLLATE were set to C.
10.1.5 General output formatting These options affect the appearance of the overall output.
-1
--format=single-column List one file per line. This is the default for ls when standard output is not a terminal.
-C
--format=vertical List files in columns, sorted vertically. This is the default for ls if standard output is a terminal. It is always the default for the dir and d programs. GNU ls uses variable width columns to display as many files as possible in the fewest lines.
--color [=WHEN] Specify whether to use color for distinguishing file types. WHEN may be omitted, or one of:
  • none - Do not use color at all. This is the default.
  • auto - Only use color if standard output is a terminal.
  • always - Always use color.
Specifying --color and no WHEN is equivalent to --color=always. Piping a colorized listing through a pager like more or less usually produces unreadable results. However, using more -f does seem to work.
-F
--classify
--indicator-style=classify Append a character to each file name indicating the file type. Also, for regular files that are executable, append *. The file type indicators are / for directories, @ for symbolic links, | for FIFOs, = for sockets, and nothing for regular files. Do not follow symbolic links listed on the command line unless the --dereference-command-line -H, --dereference -L, or --dereference-command-line-symlink-to-dir options are specified.
--indicator-style=WORD Append a character indicator with style WORD to entry names, as follows:
none Do not append any character indicator; this is the default.
file-type Append / for directories, @ for symbolic links, | for FIFOs, = for sockets, and nothing for regular files. This is the same as the -p or --file-type option.
classify Append * for executable regular files, otherwise behave as for file-type. This is the same as the -F or --classify option.
-k Print file sizes in 1024-byte blocks, overriding the default block size (*note Block size::). This option is equivalent to --block-size=1K.
-m
--format=commas List files horizontally, with as many as will fit on each line, separated by , (a comma and a space).
-p
--file-type
--indicator-style=file-type Append a character to each file name indicating the file type. This is like -F, except that executables are not marked.
-x FORMAT
--format=across
--format=horizontal List the files in columns, sorted horizontally.
-T COLS
--tabsize=COLS Assume that each tabstop is COLS columns wide. The default is 8. ls uses tabs where possible in the output, for efficiency. If COLS is zero, do not use tabs at all.
-w
--width=COLS Assume the screen is COLS columns wide. The default is taken from the terminal settings if possible; otherwise the environment variable COLUMNS is used if it is set; otherwise the default is 80.
10.1.6 Formatting file timestamps By default, file timestamps are listed in abbreviated form. Most locales use a timestamp like 2002-03-30 23:45. However, the default POSIX locale uses a date like Mar 30 2002 for non-recent timestamps, and a date-without-year and time like Mar 30 23:45 for recent timestamps. A timestamp is considered to be "recent" if it is less than six months old, and is not dated in the future. If a timestamp dated today is not listed in recent form, the timestamp is in the future, which means you probably have clock skew problems which may break programs like make that rely on file timestamps.

The following option changes how file timestamps are printed.
--time-style=STYLE List timestamps in style STYLE. The STYLE should be one of the following: +FORMAT List timestamps using FORMAT, where FORMAT is interpreted like the format argument of date (*note date invocation::). For example, --time-style="+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S" causes ls to list timestamps like 2002-03-30 23:45:56. As with date, FORMAT's interpretation is affected by the LC_TIME locale category. If FORMAT contains two format strings separated by a newline, the former is used for non-recent files and the latter for recent files; if you want output columns to line up, you may need to insert spaces in one of the two formats. full-iso List timestamps in full using ISO 8601 date, time, and time zone format with nanosecond precision, e.g., 2002-03-30 23:45:56.477817180 -0700. This style is equivalent to +%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S.%N %z. This is useful because the time output includes all the information that is available from the operating system. For example, this can help explain make''s behavior, since GNU make uses the full timestamp to determine whether a file is out of date. long-iso List ISO 8601 date and time in minutes, e.g., 2002-03-30 23:45. These timestamps are shorter than full-iso timestamps, and are usually good enough for everyday work. This style is equivalent to %Y-%m-%d %H:%M. iso List ISO 8601 dates for non-recent timestamps (e.g., 2002-03-30 , and ISO 8601 month, day, hour, and minute for recent timestamps (e.g., 03-30 23:45. These timestamps are uglier than long-iso timestamps, but they carry nearly the same information in a smaller space and their brevity helps ls output fit within traditional 80-column output lines. The following two ls invocations are equivalent:
               newline=
               ls -l --time-style="+%Y-%m-%d $newline%m-%d %H:%M"
               ls -l --time-style="iso"
locale List timestamps in a locale-dependent form. For example, a Finnish locale might list non-recent timestamps like maalis 30 2002 and recent timestamps like maalis 30 23:45. Locale-dependent timestamps typically consume more space than iso timestamps and are harder for programs to parse because locale conventions vary so widely, but they are easier for many people to read. The LC_TIME locale category specifies the timestamp format. The default POSIX locale uses timestamps like Mar 30 2002 and Mar 30 23:45' in this locale, the following two ls invocations are equivalent: newline=
               ls -l --time-style="+%b %e  %Y$newline%b %e %H:%M"
               ls -l --time-style="locale"
Other locales behave differently. For example, in a German locale, --time-style="locale" might be equivalent to --time-style="+%e. %b %Y $newline%e. %b %H:%M" and might generate timestamps like 30. Ma"r 2002 and 30. Ma"r 23:45. posix-STYLE List POSIX-locale timestamps if the LC_TIME locale category is POSIX, STYLE timestamps otherwise. For example, the default style, which is posix-long-iso, lists timestamps like Mar 30 2002 and Mar 30 23:45 when in the POSIX locale, and like 2002-03-30 23:45 otherwise. You can specify the default value of the --time-style option with the environment variable TIME_STYLE'; if TIME_STYLE is not set the default style is posix-long-iso. GNU Emacs 21 and later can parse ISO dates, but older Emacs versions do not, so if you are using an older version of Emacs and specify a non-POSIX locale, you may need to set TIME_STYLE="locale".

10.1.7 Formatting the file names

These options change how file names themselves are printed.
-b
--escape
--quoting-style=escape  Quote nongraphic characters in file names using alphabetic and octal backslash sequences like those used in C.
-N
--literal
--quoting-style=literal Do not quote file names.
-q
--hide-control-chars Print question marks instead of nongraphic characters in file names. This is the default if the output is a terminal and the program is ls.
-Q
--quote-name
--quoting-style=c Enclose file names in double quotes and quote nongraphic characters as in C.
--quoting-style=WORD Use style WORD to quote file names and other strings that may contain arbitrary characters. The WORD should be one of the following: literal Output strings as-is; this is the same as the -N or --literal option. shell Quote strings for the shell if they contain shell metacharacters or would cause ambiguous output. The quoting is suitable for POSIX-compatible shells like bash, but it does not always work for incompatible shells like csh. shell-always Quote strings for the shell, even if they would normally not require quoting. c Quote strings as for C character string literals, including the surrounding double-quote characters; this is the same as the -Q or --quote-name option. escape Quote strings as for C character string literals, except omit the surrounding double-quote characters; this is the same as the -b or --escape option. clocale Quote strings as for C character string literals, except use surrounding quotation marks appropriate for the locale. locale Quote strings as for C character string literals, except use surrounding quotation marks appropriate for the locale, and quote like this instead of "like this" in the default C locale. This looks nicer on many displays. You can specify the default value of the --quoting-style option with the environment variable QUOTING_STYLE. If that environment variable is not set, the default value is literal, but this default may change to shell in a future version of this package.
--show-control-chars Print nongraphic characters as-is in file names. This is the default unless the output is a terminal and the program is ls.

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