Linux for Beginners: A Deep Dive into the ls Command


Welcome back to our Linux for Beginners series! Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into one of the most fundamental commands in the Linux operating system: the ls command.

Understanding the ls Command

In Linux, the ls command, short for list, is used to view the contents of a directory. It’s one of the first commands you’ll learn as a beginner, and it’s one you’ll use frequently as you navigate the file system.

At its simplest, the command can be used without any options:


This will list all the files and directories in the current directory. But the ls command is much more powerful than it might seem at first glance.

Using Options with ls

The ls command becomes even more powerful when used with options. Here are some of the most commonly used ones:

  • -l: This option displays the directory contents in a detailed list format, showing file permissions, number of links, owner, group, size, and time of last modification.
ls -l

When you use the -l option, you’ll see a list of files and directories with a lot of details. The first column shows the file permissions, the second column shows the number of links to the file, the third and fourth columns show the owner and group of the file respectively, the fifth column shows the file size in bytes, the sixth column shows the last modification time, and the final column shows the file or directory name.

  • -a: This option shows all files, including hidden ones. In Linux, files that start with a dot (.) are hidden.
ls -a

When you use the -a option, ls will display all files, including those that are hidden. This can be useful if you’re trying to find a configuration file or other hidden file.

  • -h: This option makes file sizes human-readable, displaying them in KB, MB, or GB as appropriate.
ls -lh

When you use the -h option with -l, ls will display file sizes in a “human-readable” format, making them easier to understand. For example, instead of displaying the file size in bytes, it might display the size in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), or gigabytes (GB).

  • -r: This option reverses the order of the files.
ls -r

When you use the -r option, ls will reverse the order in which it displays files. This can be useful if you’re looking for files that come later in the alphabet or if you’re using ls with other options that sort the files.

  • -t: This option sorts files by modification time, showing the newest files first.
ls -lt

When you use the -t option, ls will sort files by the time they were last modified, with the newest files displayed first. This can be useful if you’re looking for a file that was recently updated.


The ls command is one of the most basic yet powerful commands in the Linux operating system. By understanding and using its options, you can greatly enhance your ability to navigate and manage your files and directories.

Remember, the best way to learn Linux is by doing. So, open up your terminal and start exploring with ls!

Stay tuned for more posts in our Linux for Beginners series where we will continue to explore more commands and concepts!

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