How to List Files in Linux

A comprehensive guide to the Linux ls command, everyone’s favorite command for looking at Linux file systems from the command line

Author: Jeremy Morgan
Published: December 17, 2023


When it comes to handling files and directories, Linux is known for its robustness and flexibility. Effective file management is crucial in Linux, as it aids in organization, security, and efficient data handling. Linux users need to know the basics of file management, especially listing files and directories.

Thankfully there’s a handy little command, ls, that makes searching for and looking at filesystems super easy.

Basic Concepts

What is a File and a Directory?

In Linux, a file is a collection of data, which could be text, program instructions, or any other form of data. A directory, on the other hand, is a container used to organize files in a hierarchical structure. Think of files as documents and directories as folders holding these documents.

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Linux File System Structure

Linux organizes files in a hierarchical directory structure, starting from the root directory, denoted as ‘/'. This structure branches out into various directories and subdirectories, forming a tree-like pattern, which helps in systematic file organization.

The ‘ls’ Command

The ‘ls’ command is the primary tool for listing files and directories in Linux. It’s a powerful command with various options to customize the output.

Opening the Terminal

To use ‘ls’, you need to open the Terminal. You can do this by searching for “Terminal” in your applications menu or using a shortcut, typically Ctrl + Alt + T.

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Using ‘ls’ – Basic Usage

Type ls and press Enter. This command lists files and directories in your current directory. For example:

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Advanced Usage of ‘ls’

Key Options and Flags

  • -l: Lists files and directories with detailed information like permissions, number of links, owner, group, size, and modification date.
  • -a: Includes hidden files (those starting with a dot .) in the listing.
  • -h: Makes file sizes human-readable (e.g., KB, MB).

Combining Flags

You can combine these flags. For example, ls -lah will list all files with detailed information in a human-readable format. In fact, this is how I mostly use ls myself:

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Tips and Tricks

  • Using Wildcards: ls *.txt lists all files ending with ‘.txt’.

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  • Sorting Output: ls -lt sorts files by modification time.

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Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Command Not Found: Ensure you’ve typed ‘ls’ correctly. “Linux LS Command”
  • Permission Denied: You might need higher permissions. Try sudo ls. “Linux LS Command”


Mastering the ‘ls’ command is essential for efficient file management in Linux. Practice using different options and flags to become more proficient. With regular use, you’ll find that navigating and managing files in Linux becomes second nature.

Remember, the key to mastering file listing in Linux is practice and exploration!

Questions or Comments? Yell at me!

- Jeremy