tree – A Tree View Listing the Contents of a Directory

The tree command is a powerful tool that generates a tree view of the contents of a directory. It is particularly useful when you need to get a quick overview of the files and directories in a particular directory, and the way they are structured.


The basic syntax for the tree command is as follows:

tree [options] [directory]

By default, the tree command will display the contents of the current directory in a tree view format. If you want to see the contents of a specific directory, simply specify the directory path as an argument.

Here’s an example of how to use the tree command to display the contents of the /usr/share/doc directory in a tree view format:

$ tree /usr/share/doc
├── acl
│   ├── AUTHORS
│   ├── ChangeLog.gz
│   ├── COPYING
│   ├── NEWS.gz
│   ├── README
│   ├── THANKS
│   └── TODO
├── acpid
│   ├── AUTHORS
│   ├── ChangeLog
│   ├── COPYING
│   ├── NEWS
│   ├── README
│   └── TODO
├── adduser
│   ├── AUTHORS
│   ├── changelog.Debian.gz
│   ├── changelog.gz
│   ├── COPYING
│   ├── README.Debian
│   └── README.gz

As you can see, the tree command displays the contents of the specified directory in a tree view format, with directories displayed as branches and files displayed as leaves.


The tree command provides a number of options that allow you to customize the output of the command. The following table lists some of the most commonly used options:

Option Description
-a All files are printed.
-d List directories only.
-f Prints the full path prefix for each file.
-i Don’t print indentation lines.
-l Follows symbolic links like directories.
-n Turn colorization off always (-C overrides).
-o Send output to a file instead of stdout.
-p Print the protections for each file.
-q Print non-printable characters as ‘?’.
-s Print the size of each file.
-u Displays file owner or UID number.
-g Displays file group owner or GID number.
-h Print the size of each file in a human-readable format.
-r Sorts the output in reverse alphabetic order.
-t Sorts the output by last modification time.
-c Sorts the output by last status change time.
-v Sorts the output by version.
-x Stay on the current filesystem only.
-A Prints ANSI lines graphic indentation lines.
-S Print with CP437 (console) graphics indentation lines.
-n Turn colorization off always (-C overrides).
-C Turn colorization on always.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you encounter issues with the tree command, here are some troubleshooting tips to help you resolve them:

  • If you get an error message that says “command not found”, make sure that the tree command is installed on your system. You can install it using your package manager (e.g. apt-get install tree on Debian-based systems).
  • If you’re not seeing the output you expect, double-check the options you’re using and make sure they’re correct.
  • If you’re having trouble understanding the output, refer to the tree command’s documentation or use the man command to get more information about the command.


  • The tree command is not included in all Linux distributions by default, so you may need to install it manually.
  • The tree command can be a useful tool for quickly visualizing the structure of a directory and its contents, which can be particularly useful when working with large or complex file systems.