dircolors - Linux


dircolors is a Linux command primarily used to set the color scheme for ls and other commands that display directory listings. This command reads the configuration file or default settings to determine the colors associated with different file types, permissions, and statuses, enhancing the readability and visual sorting of file listings.


dircolors [OPTION]... [FILE]
  • [FILE]: Specifies a file from which to read color setup information. If no file is specified, dircolors uses the default color settings or looks for a file in the environment variable LS_COLORS.


  • -b, –sh, –bourne-shell: Output Bourne shell commands. This is the default behavior if the shell environment is unknown.
  • -c, –csh, –c-shell: Output C shell commands.
  • -p, –print-database: Print the default color database to standard output. This is helpful for users looking to customize their settings.
  • –help: Display help information and exit.
  • –version: Output version information and exit.


  1. Displaying the current color configuration:


    This command outputs the default or current color settings used by ls.

  2. Customizing color settings:

    dircolors -p > ~/.dircolors
    nano ~/.dircolors

    First, export the default settings to a file, then edit it with a text editor.

  3. Applying customized color settings:

    eval "$(dircolors ~/.dircolors)"

    Apply the custom color settings by evaluating the settings file.

  4. Checking color settings from a specific file:

    dircolors /path/to/mycolors

    Use this to inspect or use color settings stored in a specific file.

Common Issues

  • Unrecognized colors or commands: If you see error messages such as unrecognized colors, ensure your terminal emulator supports the color scheme defined in LS_COLORS.
  • Incorrect file path: When specifying a file for color configuration, ensure the path is correct. Absence or mislocation can lead to default settings being used instead.


dircolors can be combined effectively with the ls command and shell customizations:

# Place in .bashrc or .bash_profile
eval "$(dircolors ~/.dircolors)"
alias ls='ls --color=auto'

This integration ensures that every new terminal session will have a color-enhanced directory listing.

  • ls: Lists directory contents and utilizes color settings specified by dircolors.
  • grep: Can use color with the --color=auto option, which can be influenced by general environment color settings for better visibility.

For more information about dircolors, consult the info pages by running info coreutils 'dircolors invocation'.