In computing, ls is a command to list computer files in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. ls is specified by POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. When invoked without any arguments, ls lists the files in the current working directory. The command is also available in the EFI shell. In other environments, such as DOS, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows, similar functionality is provided by the dir command. The numerical computing environments MATLAB and GNU Octave include an ls
function with similar functionality.


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". 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.
An ls command is also part of ASCII's MSX-DOS2 Tools for MSX-DOS version 2.
Today, the two popular versions of ls are the one provided with the GNU coreutils package, and that released by various BSD variants. Both are free software and open source, and have only minor syntax differences. The version of ls bundled in GNU coreutils was written by Richard Stallman and David MacKenzie.


and Unix-like operating systems maintain the idea of a current working directory, that is, where one is currently positioned in the hierarchy of directories. When invoked without any arguments, ls lists the files in the current working directory. If another directory is specified, then ls will list the files there, and in fact the user may specify any list of files and directories to be listed.
Files whose names start with "." are not listed, unless the -a flag is specified, the -A flag is specified, or the files are specified explicitly.
Without options, ls displays files in a bare format. This bare format however makes it difficult to establish the type, permissions, and size of the files. The most common options to reveal this information or change the list of files are:
It's normally possible to highlight different types of files with different colors, instead of with characters as -F would, but this is an area where the two main ls versions differ:
When the option to use color to indicate file types is selected, the output might look like:

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

Sample usage

The following example demonstrates the output of the ls command given two different arguments :

$ pwd
$ ls -l
drwxr--r-- 1 fred editors 4096 drafts
-rw-r--r-- 1 fred editors 30405 edition-32
-r-xr-xr-x 1 fred fred 8460 edit
$ ls -F

In this example, the user fred has a directory named drafts, a regular file called edition-32, and an executable named edit in his home directory. ls uses Unix file permission notation to indicate which users or groups are allowed to access each file or directory.

drwxr--r-- 1 fred editors 4096 Mar 1 2007 drafts

In this example, drafts is a directory, and the characters after this indicate the permissions:
  • rwx: the owner has the right to read, write and execute
  • r--: group members have read-only permissions; write and execute are not permitted, as denoted by the hyphen characters
  • r--: others have read-only permissions; write and execute are not permitted