Sign up ×
Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. It's 100% free.
root@ubuntu:/etc/openvpn# ls -l test.conf -rw-r--r-- l root root 791 Mar 20 09:23 test.conf

What does the above command mean?

share|improve this question
While we tend to encourage exploring and trying things on your Ubuntu system, you probably shouldn't be doing that as "root" – Aaron Mar 22 '13 at 0:54
@ BryceAtNetwork23: Thanks for the tip but I was given the instruction to do that. – n00b Mar 22 '13 at 7:02

2 Answers 2

I think that you have a misunderstanding with the structure of that line.

The first sentence is telling the user at a determined computer that is in the mentioned folder:


Here you have:

  1. user = "root"
  2. machine name = "ubuntu"
  3. location = "/etc/openvpn"

and the corresponding separators between them are @, : and #

The command, that is after the last separator (#), is:

ls -l test.conf

The output that you get is:

-rw-r--r-- l root root 791 Mar 20 09:23 test.conf
share|improve this answer

That is not a command. It contains a command.

It's a prompt, followed by a command, followed by the output of the command. The command itself is:

ls -l test.conf

That command displays information about the file called test.conf located in the current directory. The ls command displays (or lists) information about files. The -l flag makes it display the information in long form, rather than just showing the filename.

(ls without a flag like -l is most often used to list multiple files or determine if a file exists, but may be used with a file known to exist; by default in Ubuntu, issuing ls filename will highlight filename in a way that shows what kind of file it is, for example, it will use a certain color if it is a directory, another if it is marked executable.)

The output is:

-rw-r--r-- l root root 791 Mar 20 09:23 test.conf

That means the file:

  • is not a directory (-rw-r--r-- doesn't start with d)
  • is non-setuid and non-setgid (no s in -rw-r--r--) and non-sticky (no t)
  • is readable and writeable by its owner (rw- for owner) but only readable by other users (r-- for group members, r-- again for others) — see the community documentation on permissions
  • is owned by the user root (with root as its group identity also)
  • is 791 bytes in size
  • reports that it was last modified (or created) on the 20th of March at 9:23 am
  • has the name test.conf

The beginning of the line is a prompt; this is what is displayed to the user in a shell to notify the user they may enter a command. Prompts are often configured to provide helpful information to the user. Here the prompt is:


This means the current user is root, the machine's hostname is ubuntu (which usually means this is a live CD/DVD/USB system, but someone could name their machine ubuntu in an installed system too), and the current directory is /etc/openvpn (which is where configuration data for OpenVPN are stored, see also the Ubuntu OpenVPN documentation).

The # character indicates that this is a superuser shell (which is to be expected as it is owned by root, the superuser); otherwise it would have been $ (but please note that this convention is not universally followed, and some shells default to % which does not indicate anything about the shell's capabilities).

share|improve this answer
I've edited the post slightly to account for what looks like a botched copypaste. Your post should still make sense. – Oli Mar 22 '13 at 0:04
@ Oli: While I appreciate your good intention, I would appreciate it if you could edit it back to the original phrase/sentence. I copied exactly what was displayed on my computer screen. If you have any issue with it, you could point it out in your answer or comment. – n00b Mar 22 '13 at 7:07

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.