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I'd like to see the age of a file (time since last modification) in some human-friendly units (bonus points for things like "yesterday", "2 days ago", "3 years ago", although just a number of days would be sufficient).

Is there a shell one-liner that's simple enough to memorize and type on demand? Is there a tool (packaged for Debian/Ubuntu)? Do I write a custom shell script to do some arithmetic and install it on all the servers I have?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

This will display a file's age in days:

age () { stat=$(stat --printf="%Y %F\n" "$1"); echo "The ${stat#* } '$1' is $((($(date +%s) - ${stat%% *})/86400)) days old."; }


$ age foo
The regular file 'foo' is 41 days old.
$ age ../bar
The directory '../bar' is 296 days old.
$ age /path/to/baz
The symbolic link '/path/to/baz' is 207 days old.

Further refinement could be done to show the age in months, years, etc.

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you take "one-liner" far to serious :) – akira Jul 30 '10 at 14:37
nice one, but this is definitely option (C), shell script; not option (A), something I could memorize – Marius Gedminas Aug 2 '10 at 15:48
@Marius: Well, the short version that just prints the number of days alone would be echo $((($(date +%s) - $(stat --printf="%Y" filename))/86400)) which may not be easy to memorize, but all you really need to memorize is the principle of how it works. It's easy enough to reconstruct on that basis. – Dennis Williamson Aug 2 '10 at 16:05
In which case $(date +%s -r filename) may be easier to remember than $(stat ...). – Marius Gedminas Aug 3 '10 at 9:22
I suppose I could manage to remember $[(`date +%s`-`date +%s -r filename`)/86400]. – Marius Gedminas Aug 3 '10 at 9:24

It close enough to produce a good human readable date ! There is an option for ls --time-style. That let you format the date that will be displayed.


 ls -l --time-style="+%b %_d %Y"

 -rw-r--r--  1 root root 11359620 Jul 20 2010 file.ext

To prevent typing this hung command you can alias it in your .bashrc file.

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