The problem

I don't want to see filenames quoted when they contain spaces.


On OSX I see this when running ls:

> ls -l
total 0
drwxr-xr-x 2 mafro staff 68 Mar 16 09:02 'dir with spaces'
drwxr-xr-x 2 mafro staff 68 Mar 16 09:02 dir_with_spaces

On my Debian box it looks like this:

> ls -l
total 8
drwxr-xr-x 2 mafro mafro 4096 Mar 16 09:02 dir with spaces
drwxr-xr-x 2 mafro mafro 4096 Mar 16 09:02 dir_with_spaces

My shell is zsh with prezto and a tiny amount of my own customisation. I (should) have exactly the same dotfiles on both boxes

Here's ls. It's the same on both systems:

> which ls
ls: aliased to ls --group-directories-first --color=auto
  • 2
    You'll get the quoting on newer Debian releases, too. See Why is 'ls' suddenly wrapping items with spaces in single quotes Mar 16, 2016 at 14:32
  • @MarkPlotnick you should make this comment an answer! I've searched high and low for this and didn't find that link you sent :) THANKS
    – mafrosis
    Mar 16, 2016 at 16:10
  • @MarkPlotnick Debian undid this change in the mailing list because the maintainers agreed with me (asker of the question you linked) that it was a bad idea.
    – Wyatt Ward
    Apr 10, 2016 at 1:51

2 Answers 2


This is a new feature of Coreutils ls.

From the info documentation:


Do not quote file names. However, with ‘ls’ nongraphic characters are still printed as question marks if the output is a terminal and you do not specify the ‘--show-control-chars’ option.


To disable this feature, add export QUOTING_STYLE=literal to your ~/.bashrc or, if you are using recent GNU coreutils with shells that don't support export var=value, use:


IMO, the recently added quoting styles are a good feature, but they should not have changed the default behaviour because It breaks too many existing scripts and command line habits - especially for people who are doing the Right Thing and properly quoting their variables.

BTW, Debian reverted the behaviour in coreutils 8.25-2, so it was only present briefly in sid in 8.25-1.


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