I have a directory with a large number of files. I don't see a ls switch to provide the count. Is there some command line magic to get a count of files?


18 Answers 18


Using a broad definition of "file"

ls | wc -l

(note that it doesn't count hidden files and assumes that file names don't contain newline characters).

To include hidden files (except . and ..) and avoid problems with newline characters, the canonical way is:

find . ! -name . -prune -print | grep -c /

Or recursively:

find .//. ! -name . -print | grep -c //
  • 31
    wc is a "word count" program. The -l switch causes it to count lines. In this case, it's counting the lines in the output from ls. This is the always the way I was taught to get a file count for a given directory, too.
    – Sandy
    Aug 24 '10 at 6:07
  • 30
    please add note that ls does ls -1 if the output is a pipe.
    – lesmana
    Aug 24 '10 at 16:47
  • 6
    that doesn't get everything in a directory - you've missed dot files, and collect a couple extra lines, too. An empty directory will still return 1 line. And if you call ls -la, you will get three lines in the directory. You want ls -lA | wc -l to skip the . and .. entries. You'll still be off-by-one, however.
    – warren
    Aug 25 '10 at 15:14
  • 1
    An empty directory returns 0 for me
    – James
    Sep 24 '13 at 2:16
  • 2
    A corrected approach, that would not double count files with newlines in the name, would be this: ls -q | wc -l - though note that hidden files will still not be counted by this approach, and that directories will be counted.
    – godlygeek
    Mar 3 '15 at 22:30

For narrow definition of file:

 find . -maxdepth 1 -type f | wc -l
  • 1
    And you can of course omit the -maxdepth 1 for counting files recursively (or adjust it for desired max search depth).
    – user7089
    Aug 3 '14 at 16:25
  • 1
    If you have a file whose name contains a newline, this approach will incorrectly count it twice.
    – godlygeek
    Mar 3 '15 at 22:20
  • 9
    A corrected approach, that would not double count files with newlines in the name, would be this: find -maxdepth 1 -type f -printf "\n" | wc -l
    – godlygeek
    Mar 3 '15 at 22:27
  • +1 Allow for hidden files and ignores directories Mar 12 '15 at 23:56
ls -1 | wc -l


$ ls --help | grep -- '  -1'
    -1                         list one file per line


$ wc --help | grep -- '  -l'
    -l, --lines            print the newline counts

PS: Note ls -<number-one> | wc -<letter-l>

  • 13
    Most versions of ls do -1 automatically when the output is to a pipe. Aug 24 '10 at 1:01
  • 3
    @Dennis that's interesting I didn't know that an application could tell its output was going to a pipe. Aug 24 '10 at 5:35
  • 1
    I +'ed this version since it is more explicit. Though, yes ls does use -1 if it's piped (try it: ls | cat), I find the -1 syntax more explicit.
    – gabe.
    Aug 24 '10 at 18:13
  • 3
    @xenoterracide: In Bash: [[ -p /dev/stdin ]] && echo "stdin is from a pipe" Aug 25 '10 at 22:42
  • 2
    In my tests it was significantly faster to also provide the -f option to avoid ls sorting the filenames. Unfortunately you still get the wrong answer if your filenames contain newlines. Jan 8 '13 at 20:42

I have found du --inodes useful, but I'm not sure which version of du it requires. It should be substantially faster than alternative approaches using find and wc.

On Ubuntu 17.10, the following works:

du --inodes      # all files and subdirectories
du --inodes -s   # summary
du --inodes -d 2 # depth 2 at most

Combine with | sort -nr to sort descending by number of containing inodes.

  • no --inodes on FreeBSD :(
    – CervEd
    Apr 25 at 10:08

Probably the most complete answer using ls/wc pair is

ls -Aq | wc -l

if you want to count dot files, and

ls -q | wc -l


  • -A is to count dot files, but omit . and ...
  • -q make ls replace nongraphic characters, specifically newline character, with ?, making output 1 line for each file

To get one-line output from ls in terminal (i.e. without piping it into wc), -1 option has to be added.

(behaviour of ls tested with coreutils 8.23)

  • 2
    As you said, -1 is not needed. As to "it handles newlines in filenames sensibly with console output", this is because of the -q switch (that you should use instead of -b because it's portable) which "Forces each instance of non-printable filename characters and <tab> characters to be written as the <question-mark> ( '?' ) character. Implementations may provide this option by default if the output is to a terminal device." So e.g. ls -Aq | wc -l to count all files/dirs or ls -qp | grep -c / to count only non-hidden dirs etc... May 13 '15 at 11:08
  • Thanks for your input. Changed -b to -q.
    – Frax
    May 14 '15 at 15:05
  • Currently includes directories in its file count. To be most complete we need an easy way to omit those when needed. May 12 '20 at 7:48
  • @JoshHabdas It says "probably". ;) I think the way to omit directories would be to use don_crissti's suggestion with a slight twist: ls -qp | grep -vc /. Actually, you can use ls -q | grep -vc / to count all (non-hidden) files, and adding -p makes it match only regular files.
    – Frax
    May 12 '20 at 11:55

If you know the current directory contains at least one non-hidden file:

set -- *; echo "$#"

This is obviously generalizable to any glob.

In a script, this has the sometimes unfortunate side effect of overwriting the positional parameters. You can work around that by using a subshell or with a function (Bourne/POSIX version) like:

count_words () {
  eval 'shift; '"$1"'=$#'
count_words number_of_files *
echo "There are $number_of_files non-dot files in the current directory"

An alternative solution is $(ls -d -- * | wc -l). If the glob is *, the command can be shortened to $(ls | wc -l). Parsing the output of ls always makes me uneasy, but here it should work as long as your file names don't contain newlines, or your ls escapes them. And $(ls -d -- * 2>/dev/null | wc -l) has the advantage of handling the case of a non-matching glob gracefully (i.e., it returns 0 in that case, whereas the set * method requires fiddly testing if the glob might be empty).

If file names may contain newline characters, an alternative is to use $(ls -d ./* | grep -c /).

Any of those solutions that rely on passing the expansion of a glob to ls may fail with a argument list too long error if there are a lot of matching files.

  • 1
    Do you really want to create 13,923 positional parameters? And you should make your local variable local or eliminate it: eval $1=$# or just use echo $# and do number_of_files=$(count_words *). Aug 24 '10 at 1:16
  • 1
    @Dennis: part of the point was to avoid forking. I guess that's not a 21st century concern. Ok, I admit I don't care about non-POSIX shells any more, so I could have avoided the temporary variable. Aug 24 '10 at 7:14
  • Why did you subtract one from $# (you hadn't done that prior to the edit)? Aug 24 '10 at 22:12
  • @Dennis: I'm still avoiding a fork (well, it does make a difference on machines with a slow CPU such as routers) and passing a variable name as $1. So what I want to count is the number of parameters that aren't the first parameter. (I can't use shift because I need to keep the variable name around.) (Umm, now if you'd asked about the first line...) Aug 24 '10 at 22:42
  • @Dennis: come to think of it, I can use shift if I time it right. Aug 24 '10 at 22:50

With the GNU implementation of find:

find -maxdepth 1 -type f -printf . | wc -c
  • -maxdepth 1 will make it non-recursive, find is recursive by default
  • -type f will include regular files only
  • -printf . is a cute touch. it prints a dot (a single-byte character in every locale) for each file instead of the filename, and now this is able to handle any filename and also saves data; we just have to count the dots :). Note however that -printf is a GNU-only extension.
  • | wc -c counts bytes and reports the total as a decimal integer (possibly preceded and/or followed by whitespace depending on the wc implementation, not with GNU wc)

While using ls/wc pair if we are adding -U it will be much faster (do not sort ).

ls -AqU | wc -l

After installing the tree command, just type:


If you want hidden files too:

tree -a

If you are using Debian / Mint / Ubuntu Linux, type the following command to install the tree command:

sudo apt-get install tree

The option -L is used for specifying the maximum display level of the directory tree. The tree command does not only count the number of files, but also the number of directories, considering as many levels of the directory tree as you like.

  • 1
    When I type tree, I get a sort of tree output to the screen of the directory I am in but I cannot see where the number of files is shown. Apr 25 '18 at 12:30

No pipe, no string copy, no fork, just plain bash one liner

$ fcount() { local f i=0; for f in *; do let i++; done; echo $i; }; fcount
  • 1
    Gives a value of 1 if no files in directory. Doesn't count files, counts files and directories.
    – steve
    Feb 2 '17 at 21:42
  • But this method works when other methods fail with: -bash: /usr/bin/ls: Argument list too long
    – HowYaDoing
    Apr 13 at 19:20

Here's another technique along the lines of the one Gilles posted:

word_count () { local c=("$@"); echo "${#c[@]}"; }
file_count=$(word_count *)

which creates an array with 13,923 elements (if that's how many files there are).

  • What's the point of that c array? word_count() { echo "$#"; } would be enough. The point of @Gilles solution is to store the count in a returned variable to avoid having to use command substitution (which involves a fork and pipe in shells other than ksh93). Mar 1 '16 at 16:27
find . -type f -maxdepth 1 |  wc -l 

This can list only the files in current directory.

  • find . -type f will find files in the current directory, and also, recursively, in sub-directories.
    – dhag
    Jun 16 '16 at 20:23

On Linux, to make the command very robust and handle files that might have newlines in their name, use this:

find -maxdepth 1 -type f -print0 | tr -cd '\0' | wc -c

This saves us from the ordeal of parsing ls output.



Try this i hope this answer will help you

echo $((`ls -l | wc -l` -1 ))

You can check with:

ls -l | grep -v ^l | wc -l

Improving some answers given before but this time doing explicitly.

$ tree -L 1 | tail -n 1 | cut -d " " -f 3

It's worthy to notice the use of some loved commands like tail and cut. Also, note that tree is not available by default. The command above first capture information about the directory at level 1, then get the last line tail -n 1 where our goal is, and end up with cut to take the third word.

For instance, locating in /:

/ $ tree -L 1
├── 1
├── bin -> usr/bin
├── boot
├── dev
├── etc
├── home
├── lib -> usr/lib
├── lib64 -> usr/lib64
├── lost+found
├── media
├── mnt
├── opt
├── proc
├── root
├── run
├── sbin -> usr/sbin
├── srv
├── sys
├── tmp
├── usr
└── var

20 directories, 1 file
/ $ tree -L 1 | tail -n 1
20 directories, 1 file
/ $ tree -L 1 | tail -n 1 | cut -d " " -f 3

Then, what about asking the number of directories?


If you have rights to install packages, there is a very simple tool to do this (and more). It is called ncdu and it can be installed using apt or yum. A basic usage of ncdu would be:

ncdu /path/to/dir

This will display an ncurses-based screen which you can navigate using cursor keys. At the bottom, initially you will see the total number of files in that directory and subdirectories. Using the up/down arrow keys and ENTER, you can quickly navigate to any directory and get stats on usage.

A slightly advance use is ncdu -x /path/to/dir which will count only those files and directories which are on the same filesystem as the directory being scanned.

A bonus of ncdu is that it gives a progress bar while scanning. You can also redirect the output to a file for later use.

In the man page, there is an interesting section on how hard links are handled across various versions of ncdu.



Use the tree command, just:


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