We commonly need and want to know more about the files and directories that we are working with.
Most people know one of the ways, which is simply to Right Click > Properties on the wanted folder or file to view their properties. Though, for the more terminal-savvy, here's how you can get the same (and more) information via the Terminal in Linux.
The ls Command
One of the most commonly used commands is the
ls command, which lists all of the files and directories you're located in, alongside their names.
Once you position yourself on a file path that you want, you can list all present files/folders via:
ls Folder_one large.jpg os.zip
Alternatively, you can supply a directory name to list files from, without having to move to that directory:
ls Folder_one cpfile.c Direct fileinfo.c
Though, these are just the names, and we can't infer much from them. The
ls command has several non-mandatory options which, when turned on, give us much more about these files when listing them.
You can use them alone, or by combining a few of them, depending on what exactly you are looking for.
Getting Details With the -l Option
-l option will modify the
ls command to give you much more detailed info, such as whether an entry is a file or directory, the size (usually in bytes), modified date and time, permissions, and more:
The result of this command should look something like:
total 15168 drwxrwxr-x 3 marija marija 4096 Jul 18 19:26 Folder_one -rwxrwxrwx 1 marija marija 164461 Sep 12 2017 large.jpg -rw-rw-r-- 1 marija marija 15354276 Oct 25 2018 os.zip
Here we can see that we have one directory (d in
Folder_one, and 2 files. We can also see their owner and group,
marija, and their size in bytes, as well as their modification date/time.
The number following the permissions is the number of links to the file or directory.
If you'd like to read more about permissions and how to change them via the terminal, read our Guide to Understanding chmod.
Note: You can get far with the
-l flag, and by combining other flags with it, the
ls command will get you far for this task.
Human-Readable -lh Option
If you want a more human-readable form, you can add the joined extension
-lh or simply
-h after the
ls -lh total 15M drwxrwxr-x 3 marija marija 4,0K Jul 18 19:26 Folder_one -rwxrwxrwx 1 marija marija 161K Sep 12 2017 large.jpg -rw-rw-r-- 1 marija marija 15M Oct 25 2018 os.zip
Now, we can see the size of files shown in KB, MB, GB, etc. instead of showing only in bytes, which can be very helpful. Though, that's mostly the benefit you get from this flag.
Showing Hidden Files With the -la Option
Hidden files start with a dot symbol (
.) and aren't meant to be picked up by most GUI software, or the
ls command. These are typically files that you don't want to see, so this makes perfect sense.
On the other hand, if you'd specifically like to also include hidden files while listing the files of a directory - you can add the
-a flag. Combining the
-l flag and
-a flag, you can print the hidden files alongside regular files - with their information:
ls -la total 15212 drwxr-xr-x 3 marija marija 4096 Jul 18 20:03 . drwxr-xr-x 29 marija marija 4096 Jul 18 20:13 .. drwxrwxr-x 3 marija marija 4096 Jul 18 19:26 Folder_one -rwxrwxrwx 1 marija marija 164461 Sep 12 2017 large.jpg -rw-rw-r-- 1 marija marija 15354276 Oct 25 2018 os.zip -rw-r--r-- 1 marija marija 12288 Jan 29 2018 .tekst.txt.swn -rw-r--r-- 1 marija marija 12288 Jan 29 2018 .tekst.txt.swo -rw-r--r-- 1 marija marija 12288 Jan 29 2018 .tekst.txt.swp
Displaying Block Size With the -s Option
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-s option displays the file's size in blocks, rather than regular bytes:
ls -s total 15168 4 Folder_one 164 large.jpg 15000 os.zip
Note: Blocks are the smallest writable unit for your system and hardware.
Sorting Files by Size with the -lS Option
-S flag, not to be confused with the lowercase
-s from earlier, is a sorting flag. It sorts the files by size, in descending order:
ls -lS total 15168 -rw-rw-r-- 1 marija marija 15354276 Oct 25 2018 os.zip -rwxrwxrwx 1 marija marija 164461 Sep 12 2017 large.jpg drwxrwxr-x 3 marija marija 4096 Jul 18 19:26 Folder_one
Recursive Listing with the -R Option
If you want to list subdirectories, you'll have to make a recursive
ls call. The
-R option makes this a really simple endeavor.
It will give you a tree representation of all of the files or directories that happen to be in a particular place:
ls -R directory Screenshot 2021-07-26 at 18.53.05.png file.txt Screenshot 2021-07-26 at 21.15.20.png mpl directory/dvp-articles: axis-off directory/dvp-articles/axis-off: app.py get-pip.py directory/mpl: mpl-chapter-2-1.png
Here, we've recursively called
ls on the
directory. Within it, there's another directory -
dvp-articles, and within it, yet another -
axis-off, there's an
Of course, you can chain the
-l flag here as well, but the output might get a bit messy:
ls -lR directory
ls -lR directory [email protected] 1 david staff 369705 Jul 26 23:57 Screenshot 2021-07-26 at 23.57.34.png [email protected] 1 david staff 103861 Jul 27 00:05 Screenshot 2021-07-27 at 00.05.16.png drwxr-xr-x 3 david staff 96 Jun 17 18:00 dvp-articles -rw-r--r-- 1 david staff 0 Jun 25 17:11 file.txt drwxr-xr-x 3 david staff 96 Jul 16 20:19 mpl directory/dvp-articles: total 0 [email protected] 4 david staff 128 Jun 17 18:03 axis-off directory/dvp-articles/axis-off: total 3800 -rw-r--r-- 1 david staff 463 Jun 17 18:08 app.py -rw-r--r-- 1 david staff 1937800 Jun 17 18:03 get-pip.py directory/mpl: total 376 [email protected] 1 david staff 192506 Jul 16 20:18 mpl-chapter-2-1.png
To use inode, we can add the
ls -i 688193 Folder_one 680393 large.jpg 680392 os.zip
Of course, you can chain it with other flags such as:
ls -li 49323 [email protected] 3 david staff 96 Jun 16 20:39 Applications 34615 drwx------+ 15 david staff 480 Jul 27 00:05 Desktop ...
The stat Command
stat command is much more like the good old Right Click > Properties approach, because it formats all of the data and properties in a very readable format. It requires a filepath and isn't as customizable as
This results in:
File: 'Folder_one' Size: 4096 Blocks: 8 IO Block: 4096 directory Device: 805h/2053d Inode: 688193 Links: 3 Access: (0775/drwxrwxr-x) Uid: ( 1000/ marija) Gid: ( 1000/ marija) Access: 2021-07-18 20:04:03.205402891 +0200 Modify: 2021-07-18 19:26:00.681976407 +0200 Change: 2021-07-18 20:03:51.617219116 +0200 Birth: -
For some, this is a much better solution than the
stat, you can also format the printed info via
--printf. You can filter out data such as the user name of the owner, group name of owner, or time of last status change, in even more human-readable form:
stat --printf='%U\n%G\n%z\n' Folder_one/
Which will in this case results in:
marija marija 2021-07-18 20:03:51.617219116 +0200
Notice that we are putting ''\n'' after each wanted property, so that each is printed in a new line.
Using the terminal, it's easy to find file properties, using
ls with any of its accepted flags or via
In this short guide, we've taken a look at how to display file properties using Linux.