exa is a modern replacement for the venerable file-listing command-line program
ls that ships with Unix and Linux operating systems, giving it more features and better defaults.
It uses colours to distinguish file types and metadata.
It knows about symlinks, extended attributes, and Git.
And it’s small, fast, and just one single binary.
By deliberately making some decisions differently, exa attempts to be a more featureful, more user-friendly version of
For more information, see exa’s website.
exa’s options are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike
- -1, --oneline: display one entry per line
- -G, --grid: display entries as a grid (default)
- -l, --long: display extended details and attributes
- -R, --recurse: recurse into directories
- -T, --tree: recurse into directories as a tree
- -x, --across: sort the grid across, rather than downwards
- -F, --classify: display type indicator by file names
- --colo[u]r: when to use terminal colours
- --colo[u]r-scale: highlight levels of file sizes distinctly
- --icons: display icons
- --no-icons: don't display icons (always overrides --icons)
- -a, --all: show hidden and 'dot' files
- -d, --list-dirs: list directories like regular files
- -L, --level=(depth): limit the depth of recursion
- -r, --reverse: reverse the sort order
- -s, --sort=(field): which field to sort by
- --group-directories-first: list directories before other files
- -D, --only-dirs: list only directories
- --git-ignore: ignore files mentioned in
- -I, --ignore-glob=(globs): glob patterns (pipe-separated) of files to ignore
--all option twice to also show the
Long view options
These options are available when running with
- -b, --binary: list file sizes with binary prefixes
- -B, --bytes: list file sizes in bytes, without any prefixes
- -g, --group: list each file’s group
- -h, --header: add a header row to each column
- -H, --links: list each file’s number of hard links
- -i, --inode: list each file’s inode number
- -m, --modified: use the modified timestamp field
- -S, --blocks: list each file’s number of file system blocks
- -t, --time=(field): which timestamp field to use
- -u, --accessed: use the accessed timestamp field
- -U, --created: use the created timestamp field
- -@, --extended: list each file’s extended attributes and sizes
- --changed: use the changed timestamp field
- --git: list each file’s Git status, if tracked or ignored
- --time-style: how to format timestamps
- --no-permissions: suppress the permissions field
- --octal-permissions: list each file's permission in octal format
- --no-filesize: suppress the filesize field
- --no-user: suppress the user field
- --no-time: suppress the time field
Some of the options accept parameters:
- Valid --color options are always, automatic, and never.
- Valid sort fields are accessed, changed, created, extension, Extension, inode, modified, name, Name, size, type, and none. Fields starting with a capital letter sort uppercase before lowercase. The modified field has the aliases date, time, and newest, while its reverse has the aliases age and oldest.
- Valid time fields are modified, changed, accessed, and created.
- Valid time styles are default, iso, long-iso, and full-iso.
exa is available for macOS and Linux. More information on how to install exa is available on the Installation page.
$ apk add exa
On Arch, install the
$ pacman -S exa
Android / Termux
On Android / Termux, install the
$ pkg install exa
On Debian, install the
For now, exa is in the unstable repository.
$ apt install exa
On Fedora, install the
$ dnf install exa
On Gentoo, install the
$ emerge sys-apps/exa
$ brew install exa
$ port install exa
On nixOS, install the
$ nix-env -i exa
On openSUSE, install the
$ zypper install exa
On Ubuntu 20.10 (Groovy Gorilla) and later, install the
$ sudo apt install exa
On Void Linux, install the
$ xbps-install -S exa
Manual installation from GitHub
Compiled binary versions of exa are uploaded to GitHub when a release is made.
You can install exa manually by downloading a release, extracting it, and copying the binary to a directory in your
$PATH, such as
For more information, see the Manual Installation page.
If you already have a Rust environment set up, you can use the
cargo install command:
$ cargo install exa
Cargo will build the
exa binary and place it in
To build without Git support, run
cargo install --no-default-features exa is also available, if the requisite dependencies are not installed.
Once Rust is installed, you can compile exa with Cargo:
$ cargo build $ cargo test
The just command runner can be used to run some helpful development commands, in a manner similar to
just --tasksto get an overview of what’s available.
If you are compiling a copy for yourself, be sure to run
cargo build --releaseor
just build-releaseto benefit from release-mode optimisations. Copy the resulting binary, which will be in the
target/releasedirectory, into a folder in your
/usr/local/binis usually a good choice.
To compile and install the manual pages, you will need pandoc. The
just mancommand will compile the Markdown into manual pages, which it will place in the
target/mandirectory. To use them, copy them into a directory that
/usr/local/share/manis usually a good choice.
exa depends on libgit2 for certain features. If you’re unable to compile libgit2, you can opt out of Git support by running
cargo build --no-default-features.
If you intend to compile for musl, you will need to use the flag
vendored-opensslif you want to get the Git feature working. The full command is
cargo build --release --target=x86_64-unknown-linux-musl --features vendored-openssl,git.
For more information, see the Building from Source page.
Testing with Vagrant
exa uses Vagrant to configure virtual machines for testing.
Programs such as exa that are basically interfaces to the system are notoriously difficult to test. Although the internal components have unit tests, it’s impossible to do a complete end-to-end test without mandating the current user’s name, the time zone, the locale, and directory structure to test. (And yes, these tests are worth doing. I have missed an edge case on many an occasion.)
The initial attempt to solve the problem was just to create a directory of “awkward” test cases, run exa on it, and make sure it produced the correct output. But even this output would change if, say, the user’s locale formats dates in a different way. These can be mocked inside the code, but at the cost of making that code more complicated to read and understand.
An alternative solution is to fake everything: create a virtual machine with a known state and run the tests on that. This is what Vagrant does. Although it takes a while to download and set up, it gives everyone the same development environment to test for any obvious regressions.
First, initialise the VM:
host$ vagrant up
The first command downloads the virtual machine image, and then runs our provisioning script, which installs Rust and exa’s build-time dependencies, configures the environment, and generates some awkward files and folders to use as test cases. Once this is done, you can SSH in, and build and test:
host$ vagrant ssh vm$ cd /vagrant vm$ cargo build vm$ ./xtests/run All the tests passed!
Of course, the drawback of having a standard development environment is that you stop noticing bugs that occur outside of it.
For this reason, Vagrant isn’t a necessary development step — it’s there if you’d like to use it, but exa still gets used and tested on other platforms.
It can still be built and compiled on any target triple that it supports, VM or no VM, with
cargo build and