Examining the Linux / FreeBSD / UNIX filesystem with ls command

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Q. I’m new to Linux and how do I examine filesystem and identify regular files or directories?

A. Both Linux and UNIX comes with ls command for examining the filesystem. You can use ls command to look at the filesystem. ls command can display:
=> Character devices
=> Regular files
=> Sym links (symbolic links)
=> Directories
=> Pipes
=> Sockets
=> Block devices

ls command examples

Display /etc directory files, enter:
$ ls /etc
When invoked without any arguments, ls lists the files in the current working directory:
$ ls
Use -l (long option) to lists filenames, sizes, permissions, type and all other information:
$ ls /etc/passwd

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 2453 Jul 17 16:25 /etc/passwd

See Linux / UNIX file permissions for more information


A directory is marked with a d as the first letter of the permissions field:
ls -ld /etc

drwxr-xr-x 88 root root 12288 Aug  5 23:46 /etc

Symbolic link

A symbolic link is marked with an l (lower case L) as the first letter of the permissions string:
ls -l /bin/nisdomainname

lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 8 Jul 10 08:50 /bin/nisdomainname -> hostname


  • A named pipe is marked with a p as the first letter of the permissions string.
  • A socket is marked with a s as the first letter of the permissions string.
  • A character device is marked with a c as the first letter of the permissions strings. (ls -l /dev/console)
  • A block device is marked with a b (ls -l /dev/sdb1).

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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