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I am looking for a command that will return the owner of a directory and only that--such as a regex parsing the ls -lat command or something similar? I want to use the result in another script.

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3 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

stat from GNU coreutils can do this:

stat -c '%U' /path/of/file/or/directory

Unfortunately, there are a number of versions of stat, and there's not a lot of consistency in their syntax. For example, on FreeBSD, it would be

stat -f '%Su' /path/of/file/or/directory

If portability is a concern, you're probably better off using Gilles's suggestion of combining ls and awk. It has to start two processes instead of one, but it has the advantage of using only POSIX-standard functionality:

ls -ld /path/of/file/or/directory | awk '{print $3}'
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stat -c %U /path, if brevity is a bonus. –  tsvallender Feb 20 '11 at 23:18
That assumes GNU stat, which is not the case on older Linux systems (even on newer systems I'd be wary, there might be a different stat (a site-wide standard) in /usr/local/bin or somewhere in the user's home), and is rarely available on other unices. –  Gilles Feb 20 '11 at 23:18
stat -c %U has the advantage of also working with BusyBox, if the stat command is compiled in. –  Gilles Feb 21 '11 at 0:23
Nice, the last example (ls) works both on Unix/OSX and Linux –  kenorb Nov 28 '13 at 15:52
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Parsing the output of ls is rarely a good idea, but obtaining the first few fields is an exception, it actually works.

ls -ld /path/to/directory | awk '{print $3}'

Another option is to use a stat command, but the problem with stat from the shell is that there are multiple commands with different syntax, so stat in a shell script is unportable (even across Linux installations).

Note that testing whether a given user is the owner is a different proposition.

if [ -n "$(find . -user "$username" -print -prune -o -prune)" ]; then
  echo "The current directory is owned by $username."
if [ -n "$(find . -user "$(id -u)" -print -prune -o -prune)" ]; then
  echo "The current directory is owned by the current user."
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One can also do this with GNU find:

find $directoryname -maxdepth 0 -printf '%u\n'

This isn't portable outside of the GNU system, but I'd be surprised to find a Linux distribution where it doesn't work.

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This works on every non-embedded Linux system and a few others (e.g. Cygwin). Embedded systems are likely to have Busybox, whose find doesn't have -printf. –  Gilles Feb 21 '11 at 0:22
Like I said, GNU system. –  mattdm Feb 21 '11 at 1:24
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