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Exa is the best alternative to the ls command

Hello, friends. The terminal is the workplace of many Linux users. It’s not that complex to use, at least for basic things, but you can always improve some of its tools. That’s precisely what we’re going to talk about today. Because we are going to talk about Exa, probably the best alternative to the ls command in Linux. With exa, you can display files in an advanced way without losing simplicity.

What is this tool?

If we refer to the Exa website, we have the following definition:

exa is a modern replacement for the command-line program ls that ships with Unix and Linux operating systems. This command is used by terminal users, administrators, and developers hundreds of times daily, as well as being useful when writing automated scripts.

In other words, this command, written in Rust, improves the way files are displayed in Linux. Of course, exa is a different tool, but one that is used by many professionals to quickly display content on Linux.

The tool is built in Rust, so it consumes virtually no unnecessary resources. This means that we can use it on as many computers as we can.

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Some of the features of Exa are:

  • Supports color scheme to improve the visualization of each of the files.
  • Exa provides different views such as Grid, long, and tree. Each of them, to better display the attributes and files.
  • It is integrated with Git especially useful for developers because, with Exa, you can see the Git status of files when you’re inside a repository.

Besides this, it is free and does not replace ls so we can use both.

Install Exa the best alternative to the ls command on Linux

Exa is supported by many distributions. If you want to use it on Debian 10, run

sudo apt install exa

For Fedora 34

sudo dnf install exa

But for the rest of the distributions, you may want to do the manual installation which is quite easy.

First, make sure you have the necessary packages installed.

sudo apt install wget unzip

Now download the binary provided by the developers:

wget -c https://github.com/ogham/exa/releases/download/v0.10.0/exa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip
--2021-07-15 17:33:37--  https://github.com/ogham/exa/releases/download/v0.10.0/exa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip
Resolving github.com (github.com)...
Connecting to github.com (github.com)||:443... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 302 Found
Location: https://github-releases.githubusercontent.com/20060596/64406f00-9587-11eb-80ae-0a8f59c6468a?X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAIWNJYAX4CSVEH53A%2F20210715%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20210715T153337Z&X-Amz-Expires=300&X-Amz-Signature=422091b2ecf1c031214a026401a9d6546580a6996847c667c0b487b54ed4599a&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&actor_id=0&key_id=0&repo_id=20060596&response-content-disposition=attachment%3B%20filename%3Dexa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip&response-content-type=application%2Foctet-stream [following]
--2021-07-15 17:33:37--  https://github-releases.githubusercontent.com/20060596/64406f00-9587-11eb-80ae-0a8f59c6468a?X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAIWNJYAX4CSVEH53A%2F20210715%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20210715T153337Z&X-Amz-Expires=300&X-Amz-Signature=422091b2ecf1c031214a026401a9d6546580a6996847c667c0b487b54ed4599a&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&actor_id=0&key_id=0&repo_id=20060596&response-content-disposition=attachment%3B%20filename%3Dexa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip&response-content-type=application%2Foctet-stream
Resolving github-releases.githubusercontent.com (github-releases.githubusercontent.com)...,,, ...
Connecting to github-releases.githubusercontent.com (github-releases.githubusercontent.com)||:443... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 717968 (701K) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: ‘exa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip’

exa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip              100%[=====================================================================================>] 701.14K  --.-KB/s    in 0.1s

2021-07-15 17:33:37 (5.75 MB/s) - ‘exa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip’ saved [717968/717968]

Unzip it

unzip exa-linux-x86_64-v0.10.0.zip

When finished, we have to access the bin folder where the binary is located

cd bin/

Now copy it to any directory that is in the $PATH such as /usr/local/bin.

sudo cp exa /usr/local/bin/

Now you can use it without any problems.

Using Exa the ls command alternative

With exa in the system we just need to invoke it to run


there it will display your files as in the ls command.

One of the most interesting options is --tree which displays a tree view.

exa --tree
1.- Using exa on Linux
1.- Using exa on Linux

Also, we can limit the level of parsing, e.g.

exa --tree --level=2

This way we can control the scanning.

If we add --long to this option we can get more information about the files.

exa --tree --long
2.- Exa the best alternative to the ls command
2.- Exa the best alternative to the ls command

Finally, exa can recurse into a directory and list the contents of every subdirectory beneath it.

exa --recurse
3.- Using Exa
3.- Using Exa

For symbolic links, exa handles them very well

exa -l /etc/localtime /etc/resolv.conf

So, enjoy it


Exa is a tool that increases our productivity on the terminal. It is not surprising that more and more people use it in their daily work. Now that you know it, tell us about it.

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