When using chgrp or chown I see zero used quite frequently as the named group or user, instead of root.

Is there a preference for either?

And in what use case is the numeric arg preferable?

  • Maybe not for root, but in a use case like described here, where the same UID (numeric) should match different users (by name), an admin might find it easier to work with numbers than names.
    – FelixJN
    Jan 5, 2021 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


We know that root is always 0, but for other users we don't know there uid.

In the old days memory and punch-cards were expensive, 0 is 3 less characters than root. It was encouraged to make programs small, to save memory, but at the expense of readability.

Now memory is cheap. It is better to focus on readability. People are still being taught old habits, because the teachers don't know why we did it that way.

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