Original author(s)coreutils: Richard Stallman and David MacKenzie
Developer(s)Various open-source and commercial developers
Written inC
Operating systemMultics, Unix, Unix-like, Plan 9, Inferno, MSX-DOS
Licensecoreutils: GPLv3+
BusyBox: GPL-2.0-only
Toybox: 0BSD
Plan 9: MIT License

In computing, ls is a command to list computer files and directories in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. It is specified by POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification.

It is available in the EFI shell,[1] as a separate package for Microsoft Windows as part of the UnxUtils collection of native Win32 ports of common GNU Unix-like utilities,[2] or as part of ASCII's MSX-DOS2 Tools for MSX-DOS version 2.[3]

The numerical computing environments MATLAB and GNU Octave include an ls function with similar functionality.[4][5]

In other environments, such as DOS, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows, similar functionality is provided by the dir command.

As with most utilities the different implementations have different options. Check the documentation provided with the command for correct usage and options.


An ls utility appeared in the first version of AT&T UNIX, the name inherited from a similar command in Multics also named 'ls', short for the word "list".[6][7][8] ls is part of the X/Open Portability Guide since issue 2 of 1987. It was inherited into the first version of POSIX.1 and the Single Unix Specification.[9]

Command syntax

ls [options] [file... | directory...]


Unix and Unix-like operating systems maintain the idea of a working directory. When invoked without arguments, ls lists the files in the working directory. If a directory is specified, the files in that directory are listed. The arguments may contain a multiple files and directories.

In many Unix-like systems, names starting with "." are hidden. Examples are "." which refers to the working directory and ".." which refers to its parent directory. Hidden names are not shown by default. With -a all names, including all hidden names, are shown. Using -A shows all names, including hidden names, except for "." and "..". File names specified explicitly (for example "ls .secret" ) are always listed.

Without options, ls displays names only. Multiple options may be combined. Common options include:

Additional options controlling how items are displayed include:

It is may be possible to highlight different types of items with different colors. This is an area where implementations differ:

When the option to use color to indicate item types is selected, the output might look like:

-rw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 26650 Dec 20 11:16 audio.ogg brw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 64 Jan 27 05:52 bd-block-device crw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 255 Jan 26 13:57 cd-character-device -rw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 290 Jan 26 14:08 image.png drwxrwxr-x 2 tsmitt nregion 48 Jan 26 11:28 di-directory -rwxrwxr-x 1 tsmitt nregion 29 Jan 26 14:03 ex-executable -rw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 0 Dec 20 09:39 fi-regular-file lrwxrwxrwx 1 tsmitt nregion 3 Jan 26 11:44 ln-soft-link -> dir lrwxrwxrwx 1 tsmitt nregion 15 Dec 20 10:57 or-orphan-link -> mi-missing-link drwxr-xrwx 2 tsmitt nregion 4096 Dec 20 10:58 ow-other-writeable-dir prw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 0 Jan 26 11:50 pi-pipe -rwxr-sr-x 1 tsmitt nregion 0 Dec 20 11:05 sg-setgid srw-rw-rw- 1 tsmitt nregion 0 Jan 26 12:00 so-socket drwxr-xr-t 2 tsmitt nregion 4096 Dec 20 10:58 st-sticky-dir -rwsr-xr-x 1 tsmitt nregion 0 Dec 20 11:09 su-setuid -rw-r--r-- 1 tsmitt nregion 10240 Dec 20 11:12 compressed.gz drwxrwxrwt 2 tsmitt nregion 4096 Dec 20 11:10 tw-sticky-other-writeable-dir

Sample usage

The following example demonstrates the output of the command:

$ ls -l
drwxr--r--   1 fjones editors     4096 Mar  2 12:52  drafts
-rw-r--r--   3 fjones editors    30405 Mar  2 12:52  edition-32
-r-xr-xr-x   1 fjones bookkeepers 8460 Jan 16  2022

Each line shows the "d" (directory) or "-" (file) indicator, Unix file permission notation, number of hard links (1 or 3), the file's owner, the file's group, the file size, the modification date/time, and the file name. In the working directory the owner fjones has a directory named drafts, a regular file named edition-32, and an executable named which is "old", i.e. modified more than 6 months ago as indicated by the display of the year.

See also


  1. ^ "EFI Shells and Scripting". Intel. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  2. ^ "Native Win32 ports of some GNU utilities".
  3. ^ "MSX-DOS2 Tools User's Manual - MSX-DOS2 TOOLS ユーザーズマニュアル". April 1, 1993 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ "List folder contents - MATLAB ls".
  5. ^ "Function Reference: Ls". Octave Forge.
  6. ^ "Multics manual page for ls or list command". 14 February 1985.
  7. ^ Fischer, Eric. "A Brief History of the 'ls' command". The Linux Documentation Project.
  8. ^ "Multics programmer's manual - Commands and active functions" (PDF). p. 397.
  9. ^ ls – Shell and Utilities Reference, The Single UNIX Specification, Version 4 from The Open Group
  10. ^ "(decode_switches): -h and -H override output units". coreutils.git. 1997-12-31.
  11. ^ "[base] Log of /stable/10/bin/ls/ls.c". 2001-12-28.
  12. ^ What's New in the Solaris 9 Operating Environment, Sun Microsystems, 2002
  13. ^ "General output formatting (GNU Coreutils 9.1)". Retrieved 2023-01-07.
  14. ^ "FreeBSD Man Pages — ls". Retrieved June 23, 2013.