If I use the ls command in my home directory each line of output has a leading whitespace:

$ ls
 bin      Documents ...

It only seems to do this for my home directory.

Why does it do this?

Note: I don't consider this to be a duplicate of Why is 'ls' suddenly wrapping items with spaces in single quotes? because that's not what I asked and I'm not interested in knowing the answer. Simply knowing that the whitespace is a side-effect of the quoting sufficiently answers my question.

  • Does the bin directory have an actual space as the first character in its name?
    – Kusalananda
    Nov 21, 2019 at 10:43
  • @Kusalananda No, it doesn't. Nov 21, 2019 at 10:43
  • 1
    Does ls automatically quote some of the other filenames in the output due to them containing "special" characters? I can recreate this if I create any other filename with e.g. a space character in its name. GNU ls would then quote that name and indent other names in the directory listing output.
    – Kusalananda
    Nov 21, 2019 at 10:45
  • Which distro? And what does ls -l say -- does the space also appear in the columned listing? Nov 21, 2019 at 10:45
  • 1
    @Kusalananda Intersting! There's a directory named 'VirtualBox VMs'. I noticed that the leading whitespace is no longer printed if I remove this directory. Nov 21, 2019 at 10:46

1 Answer 1


I figured it out thanks to @Kusalananda's and @Paul_Pedant's suggestions.

When using ls -l the output looks like this:

drwxr-xr-x  2 francis francis  4096 Feb 15  2019  bin
drwxrwxr-x  3 francis francis  4096 Jan 16  2019  builds
drwxr-xr-x  8 francis francis  4096 Nov 15 10:00  Desktop
drwxr-xr-x  2 francis francis  4096 Aug 21 11:37  Documents
drwxr-xr-x  6 francis francis 20480 Nov 21 10:57  Downloads
drwx------ 23 francis francis  4096 Nov 21 10:57  Dropbox
drwxrwxr-x  3 francis francis  4096 Apr 11  2019 'VirtualBox VMs'

The 'VirtualBox VMs' directory is quoted by ls (probably because it has a space in its name). And it appears ls aligns the output so the leading quote has its own dedicated column.

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