GNU Emacs

G.4 Emulation of ls on MS-Windows

Dired normally uses the external program ls to produce the directory listing displayed in Dired buffers (see Dired, the Directory Editor). However, MS-Windows and MS-DOS systems don’t come with such a program, although several ports of GNU ls are available. Therefore, Emacs on those systems emulates ls in Lisp, by using the ls-lisp.el package. While ls-lisp.el provides a reasonably full emulation of ls, there are some options and features peculiar to that emulation; they are described in this section.

The ls emulation supports many of the ls switches, but it doesn’t support all of them. Here’s the list of the switches it does support: -A, -a, -B, -C, -c, -G, -g, -h, -i, -n, -R, -r, -S, -s, -t, -U, -u, -v, and -X. The -F switch is partially supported (it appends the character that classifies the file, but does not prevent symlink following).

On MS-Windows and MS-DOS, ls-lisp.el is preloaded when Emacs is built, so the Lisp emulation of ls is always used on those platforms. If you have a ported ls, setting ls-lisp-use-insert-directory-program to a non- nil value will revert to using an external program named by the variable insert-directory-program.

The order in which ls-lisp.el sorts files depends on several customizable options described below.

The default sorting order follows locale-specific rules derived from your system locale. You can make the order locale-independent by customizing ls-lisp-use-string-collate to a nil value.

On GNU and Unix systems, when the locale’s encoding is UTF-8, the collation order follows the Unicode Collation Algorithm (UCA). To have a similar effect on MS-Windows, the variable ls-lisp-UCA-like-collation should have a non- nil value (this is the default). The resulting sorting order ignores punctuation, symbol characters, and whitespace characters, so .foobar, foobar and foo bar will appear together rather than far apart.

By default, ls-lisp.el uses a case-sensitive sort order for the directory listing it produces; this is so the listing looks the same as on other platforms. If you wish that the files be sorted in case-insensitive order, set the variable ls-lisp-ignore-case to a non- nil value.

By default, files and subdirectories are sorted together, to emulate the behavior of ls. However, native MS-Windows/MS-DOS file managers list the directories before the files; if you want that behavior, customize the option ls-lisp-dirs-first to a non- nil value.

The variable ls-lisp-verbosity controls the file attributes that ls-lisp.el displays. The value should be either nil or a list that contains one or more of the symbols links, uid, and gid. links means display the count of different file names that are associated with (a.k.a. links to) the file’s data; this is only useful on NTFS volumes. uid means display the numerical identifier of the user who owns the file. gid means display the numerical identifier of the file owner’s group. The default value is (links uid gid) i.e., all the 3 optional attributes are displayed. The value nil means not to display any of these attributes.

The variable ls-lisp-emulation controls the flavor of the ls emulation by setting the defaults for the 3 options described above: ls-lisp-ignore-case, ls-lisp-dirs-first, and ls-lisp-verbosity. The value of this option can be one of the following symbols:


Emulate GNU systems; this is the default. This sets ls-lisp-ignore-case and ls-lisp-dirs-first to nil, and ls-lisp-verbosity to (links uid gid).


Emulate Unix systems. Like GNU, but sets ls-lisp-verbosity to (links uid).


Emulate macOS. Sets ls-lisp-ignore-case to t, and ls-lisp-dirs-first and ls-lisp-verbosity to nil.


Emulate MS-Windows. Sets ls-lisp-ignore-case and ls-lisp-dirs-first to t, and ls-lisp-verbosity to nil on Windows 9X and to t on modern versions of Windows. Note that the default emulation is not MS-Windows, even on Windows, since many users of Emacs on those platforms prefer the GNU defaults.

Any other value of ls-lisp-emulation means the same as GNU. Customizing this option calls the function ls-lisp-set-options to update the 3 dependent options as needed. If you change the value of this variable without using customize after ls-lisp.el is loaded (note that it is preloaded on MS-Windows and MS-DOS), you can call that function manually for the same result.

The variable ls-lisp-support-shell-wildcards controls how file-name patterns are supported: if it is non- nil (the default), they are treated as shell-style wildcards; otherwise they are treated as Emacs regular expressions.

The variable ls-lisp-format-time-list defines how to format the date and time of files. The value of this variable is ignored, unless Emacs cannot determine the current locale. (However, if the value of ls-lisp-use-localized-time-format is non- nil, Emacs obeys ls-lisp-format-time-list even if the current locale is available; see below.)

The value of ls-lisp-format-time-list is a list of 2 strings. The first string is used if the file was modified within the current year, while the second string is used for older files. In each of these two strings you can use ‘ %’-sequences to substitute parts of the time. For example:

("%b %e %H:%M" "%b %e  %Y")

Note that the strings substituted for these ‘ %’-sequences depend on the current locale. See Time Parsing in The Emacs Lisp Reference Manual, for more about format time specs.

Normally, Emacs formats the file time stamps in either traditional or ISO-style time format. However, if the value of the variable ls-lisp-use-localized-time-format is non- nil, Emacs formats file time stamps according to what ls-lisp-format-time-list specifies. The ‘ %’-sequences in ls-lisp-format-time-list produce locale-dependent month and day names, which might cause misalignment of columns in Dired display. The default value of ls-lisp-use-localized-time-format is nil.