ls - macOS


The ls command is a fundamental tool for navigating the macOS file system. It lists the contents of a specified directory, providing detailed information about files and folders. It’s commonly used to explore directories, examine file attributes, and perform basic file operations.


ls [-abcdfghiklmnopqrstuvwAXCDEFGI] [file or directory]...


  • -a: Show hidden files, starting with a period (.) character.
  • -b: Remove trailing slash for directories and add a slash for FIFO files and sockets.
  • -c: Sort by modification time, most recent first.
  • -d: Display only directory entries themselves, not their contents.
  • -f: Do not sort; display entries in the order they are read.
  • -g: Group directories with their corresponding user.
  • -h: Display file sizes as human-readable, such as “123K” or “1.5M”.
  • -i: Display inode index for each file.
  • -k: Display file sizes in kilobytes.
  • -l: Display detailed information, including file type, permissions, and timestamps.
  • -m: Display file sizes as comma-separated groups of bytes.
  • -n: Display user and group IDs instead of user and group names.
  • -o: Order by modification time, oldest first.
  • -p: Append a slash (/) to the end of directory names.
  • -q: Output only the file or directory names, without any other information.
  • -r: Sort results in reverse order.
  • -s: Display file sizes in bytes.
  • -t: Sort by modification time, oldest first.
  • -u: Display last access time instead of last modification time.
  • -w: Display file sizes in wide format, aligning the sizes in columns.
  • -A: Show all files, including hidden files, except for files starting with a period (.).
  • -C: Display entries in columns.
  • -D: Display entries in a format that can be used by the diff command.
  • -E: Escape non-printable characters in octal notation.
  • -F: Append a character to each filename indicating its type.
  • -G: Group directories with their corresponding group.
  • -I: Ignore case when sorting and searching.


  • List files in the current directory:
  • Show hidden files in the current directory:
    ls -a
  • List files in a specific directory:
    ls /Users/username/Documents
  • List files in a specific directory with detailed information:
    ls -l /Users/username/Documents
  • List files in reverse order:
    ls -r
  • List files in a specific directory with a specific file extension:
    ls /Users/username/Documents/*.txt

Common Issues

  • Hidden files and directories: Hidden items are typically not shown by default. Use the -a option to display them.
  • Incorrect permissions: If you’re unable to view the contents of a directory, check the file permissions to ensure you have sufficient access.
  • Confusing output: The ls command can produce a lot of output, especially when used with the -l option. Use options like -h to make the output more readable.


  • Pipes: Combine ls with other commands using pipes to perform advanced tasks. For example, to find all text files in a directory and print their contents, use:
    ls | grep .txt | xargs cat
  • Scripts: Create scripts that automate common ls tasks, such as finding specific files or performing operations on files based on criteria.
  • find: Search for files and directories based on various criteria.
  • cd: Change the current working directory.
  • mkdir: Create new directories.
  • rmdir: Remove empty directories.