Excellent Utilities: exa – replacement for ls


exa is a genuine alternative to ls. You don’t lose any speed, and gain a number of useful advantages that makes for a compelling usage case. I use exa at least 50 times a day.

The tool offers a good range of features which should meet your requirements. There’s support for Git which lets you view staged and unstaged status of every file. There’s also support for 24-bit colours, the ability to toggle colours on or off, effective file filtering, and the utility recognizes pipes, devices, and sockets.

There are plans to add hyperlink rendering support which will be a useful addition. Other features I’d like to see are the ability to show file sizes for parent directories, and an option to specify the order of columns in long view. The developer intends to make it possible to hide and reorder each column.

There’s a detailed man page, but on my system typing man exa at the shell brings up the man page for different software: 2D acceleration architecture for X.Org.

I’d also like configurable colors. On my default terminal, output is quite hard to read. Whether this is a problem for you depends on your terminal background settings. Of course, you can adjust your terminal colours, but that’s not an ideal solution.

exa is written as a binary that’s a thin wrapper around a library. The project has attracted over 8,000 GitHub stars, an indication it’s a popular project.

If you’re interested in contributing to the exa project, why not brush up your Rust knowledge? Here’s some great free Rust books to learn about the language.

Website: the.exa.website
Support: Documentation, GitHub Code Repository
Developer: Benjamin Sago and many contributors
License: MIT License

exa is written in Rust. Learn Rust with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation
Page 3 – Summary

Complete list of articles in this series:

Excellent Utilities
tmuxA terminal multiplexer that offers a massive boost to your workflow
lnavAdvanced log file viewer for the small-scale; great for troubleshooting
PaperworkDesigned to simplify the management of your paperwork
AbricotineMarkdown editor with inline preview functionality
mdlessFormatted and highlighted view of Markdown files
fkillKill processes quick and easy
TuskAn unofficial Evernote client with bags of potential
UlauncherSublime application launcher
McFlyNavigate through your bash shell history
LanguageToolStyle and grammar checker for 30+ languages
pecoSimple interactive filtering tool that's remarkably useful
Liquid PromptAdaptive prompt for Bash & Zsh
AnanicyShell daemon created to manage processes’ IO and CPU priorities
cheat.shCommunity driven unified cheat sheet
ripgrepRecursively search directories for a regex pattern
exaA turbo-charged alternative to the venerable ls command
OCRmyPDFAdd OCR text layer to scanned PDFs
WatsonTrack the time spent on projects
fontpreviewQuickly search and preview fonts
fdWonderful alternative to the venerable find
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  1. I cringe when I read about CLI utilities written in Rust. That exa binary is over 800KB! (see the exa debian amd64 package)

      1. And you should remember that “software bloat always expands to make use of all the memory available” ;+}

      2. It is not a discovery for me, but will be for some, as there are deliberate attempts to cover up how bloated rust-created binaries are. For example, the description here packages.debian.org/sid/exa: “and it is small, fast, and one single binary”. of course, “small” is relative. ‘ls’ is about 145KB. Does some colour-coding, extra columns and git compatibility justify the extra 600KB? I am old-school, probably these days the younger generation of programmers don’t care about the bloat, just the coding conveniences — I have to have a bit of a grumble about it though.

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