What would be the best/easiest way for a non-techie like me to get my headless Ubuntu media server to generate a file containing a list of files X-levels deep from a specific folder and back that list up without actually backing up the files themselves? Ideally (but by no means required) it would be a nicely formatted HTML page... but only if there's some existing tool that does that sort of thing. I'm not expecting the answerer to write extensive code for me.

I have Crashplan installed but I don't want to use bandwidth moving terabytes of non-critical files to the Cloud. But in the rare event something happens, I want to at least see a list of what was there so I can see what was lost and I can pick and choose what to replace.

I hope the answer is complete, as I'm by no means a command line guru... and it does need to be command line because it is headless.


You can use tree. It might not be preinstalled, so get it using

sudo apt-get install tree

Then you can get a list of your files and their directory structure by simply running

$ tree test/
├── dir1
│   ├── file1
│   ├── file2
│   └── file3
├── dir2
│   ├── file1
│   ├── file2
│   └── file3
└── dir3
    ├── file1
    ├── file2
    └── file3

You redirect the output to a file like this:

tree test/ > directory-list.txt

You can limit recursion depth using the -L option, e.g. tree -L 3 test/.

If you want a fancy HTML page with FTP links to each file, tree has that built in!

tree -H /ftp-root test/ > directory-list.html

You need to specify a base link though which will control where all the file hyperlinks point to, as described in the manpage (man tree):

   -H baseHREF
          Turn  on  HTML output, including HTTP references. Useful for ftp
          sites.  baseHREF gives the base ftp  location  when  using  HTML
          output.  That  is,  the local directory may be `/local/ftp/pub',
          but  it  must   be   referenced   as   `ftp://hostname.organiza‐
          tion.domain/pub'  (baseHREF  should be `ftp://hostname.organiza‐
          tion.domain'). Hint: don't use ANSI lines with this option,  and
          don't give more than one directory in the directory list. If you
          wish to use colors via CCS style-sheet, use  the  -C  option  in
          addition to this option to force color output.

The resulting file opened in a webbrowser looks like this:

enter image description here

  • Exactly what I needed! – bcsteeve Sep 25 '16 at 23:47

find is your friend here.

Assuming you want to backup all filenames, upto 4 levels deep, starting from /foo/bar directory, into a file backup_filenames.txt:

find /foo/bar -maxdepth 4 -type f >backup_filename.txt

To consider only filenames of a certain extension e.g. .txt, use -name:

find /foo/bar -maxdepth 4 -type f -name '*.txt' >backup_filename.txt

Case insensitively (-iname):

find /foo/bar -maxdepth 4 -type f -iname '*.txt' >backup_filename.txt

Modify the parameters to meet your need. Also check man find.

  • Thanks! And then I'd set up a cron job to do that periodically, right? – bcsteeve Sep 25 '16 at 23:14
  • @bcsteeve Yes, you absolutely can. Note that, > truncates the file so make any necessary modifications on the backup filename logic, if needed. – heemayl Sep 25 '16 at 23:16
  • If you want HTML output, you can use something like awk to format the output from find: find /foo/bar -maxdepth 4 -type f | awk 'BEGIN {print "<html><body><pre>"} {printf "%s<br>", $0} END {print "</pre></body></html>"}' > backup_filename.html – Johnny Sep 26 '16 at 3:15

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