Replacing ls with exa in my Linux workflow

Radu Zaharia
5 min readNov 1, 2022
Replacing ls with exa

As always, I may be a few years behind the latest cool trends, but I just found this tool and I had to write about it. It is called exa, it can be easily installed in Fedora using sudo dnf install exa (or with rpm-ostree install exa for Silverblue users) and it’s a file listing tool. At first I thought “Ok, so what? There is nothing wrong with ls, why would I need a replacement?”. Or even: “Since we have ls, why would anybody work on anything that would replace it?”.

But as I started testing exa and learned about its features, I immediately recognized its usefulness and decided to write about it. Maybe someone out there appreciates the nice output it provides and finds it important for their workflow. If you want to make your own opinion before fully committing to it, you can install it in a toolbox container. If you don’t like it you can throw the container away and forget it ever happened.

Features and benefits

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

First of all, if you simply run exa the output will be identical with ls. Also, some options may resemble the options from ls, such as -l:

Comparison between ls -l and exa -l

Yes, exa is a bit more colored by default and that may be helpful, but the real differences start to show up as we dwell on the documentation. For example exa provides a nice tree output by simply using --tree:

Replacing tree with exa

But it goes further if we use both -l and --tree:

Showing an extended tree

You can set the tree depth by using the --level parameter:

Radu Zaharia

Still planning that trip to the Moon.