home | O'Reilly's CD bookshelfs | FreeBSD | Linux | Cisco | Cisco Exam  

Unix Power ToolsUnix Power ToolsSearch this book

8.10. Useful ls Aliases

Because ls is one of the most commonly used Unix commands and provides numerous options, it's a good idea to create aliases for the display formats that best suit your needs. For example, many users always want to know about their "hidden" files. That's reasonable -- they're just as important as any other files you have. In some cases, they can grow to take up lots of room (for example, some editors hide backup files), so it's worth being aware of them.

Rather than typing ls -a every time, you can create a convenient alias that supplies the -a or -A option (Section 8.9) automatically:

$ alias la="ls -aF"
% alias la ls -aF


$ alias la="ls -AF"
% alias la ls -AF

Two things to note here. First, I recommend using la as the name of the alias, rather than just renaming ls. I personally think it's dangerous to hide the pure, unadulterated command underneath an alias; it's better to pick a new name and get used to using that name. If you ever need the original ls for some reason, you'll be able to get at it without problems.

Second, what's with the -F option? I just threw it in to see if you were paying attention. It's actually quite useful; many users add it to their ls aliases. The -F option shows you the type of file in each directory by printing an extra character after each filename. Table 8-1 lists what the extra character can be.

Table 8-1. Filename types listed by ls -F




The file is a regular file.


The file is an executable.


The file is a directory.


The file is a symbolic link (Section 10.4).


The file is a FIFO (named pipe) Section 43.11).


The file is a socket.

For example:

% la        Alias includes -F functionality
.cshrc   .login        Mail/         performance/
.emacs   .mailrc       mail.txt      powertools@

This says that Mail and performance are directories. powertools is a symbolic link (ls -l will show you what it's linked to). There are no executables, FIFOs, or sockets in this directory.

[If you use tcsh, it has a built-in ls called ls -F, which not only prints this extra information, but also supports color (Section 8.6) and caching of filesystem information for speed. I generally put alias ls ls -F in my .cshrc. -- DH]

You may want this version instead:

$ alias la="ls -aFC"
% alias la ls -aFC

The -C option lists the files in multiple columns. This option isn't needed with ls versions where multicolumn output is the normal behavior. Note, however, that when piped to another command, ls output is single-column unless -C is used. For example, use ls -C | less to preserve multiple columns with a paged listing.

Finally, if you often need the full listing, use the alias:

$ alias ll="ls -l"
% alias ll ls -l

This alias may not seem like much of a shortcut until after you've typed it a dozen times. In addition, it's easy to remember as "long listing." Some Unix systems even include ll as a regular command.

--DG and ML

Library Navigation Links

Copyright © 2003 O'Reilly & Associates. All rights reserved.