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Is there any equivalent of the Ubuntu tree command for Mac OS X ?

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migrated from Nov 21 '11 at 10:41

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

10 Answers 10

up vote 248 down vote accepted

Yes, there is, and it's called tree.

You can install it

  • from source or
  • with a package manager

The former may seem a bit complicated if you've never compiled source code before. It requires editing of a few files. The latter has a bit of an overhead (because you may not need a package manager for just one tool), but it's generally much easier to install tree and other software packages.

Installing from source

First, you have to install the Xcode command line tools by running xcode-select --install.

Then, download the tree source. Then change the Makefile to get it to work, which is also explained in @apuche's answer below. Commenting out the Linux options and uncommenting the OS X options should be enough.

Then, run ./configure, then make.

Now you have to move the tree binary file to a location that's in your executable path. For example:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/bin
sudo cp tree /usr/local/bin/tree

Now edit your ~/.bash_profile to include:

export PATH="/usr/local/bin:$PATH"

Reload the shell, and now which tree should point to /usr/local/bin/tree.

With a package manager

There are several package managers for OS X. The most popular are: Homebrew, MacPorts, or Fink (sorted in the order I would recommend). Install either of those first — just install one, not all.

Then run one of the following commands, depending on which package manager you chose.

    brew install tree
    sudo port install tree
    fink install tree

The package managers offer other command line programs, including the GNU/Linux ones that do not come with OS X by default.

share|improve this answer… also seems to have detailed instructions but may cause issues with llvm-gcc living under /Developer if you are running Xcode 4.x; a bit of fiddling around should do the trick. – Ahmed Masud Nov 21 '11 at 11:04
@slhck: Thanks! Installing Homebrew + brew install tree worked like a charm :) – Misha Moroshko Nov 21 '11 at 22:13
@DavidMoles Because simply running make on OS X doesn't work. First, you have to know how to install the Xcode command-line tools (or generally, have some idea about building software) and then you'll find that it errors out on an undefined symbol. So you have to do some adjustments to the makefile (as explained here). Too much hassle IMO. – slhck Jan 21 '15 at 22:04
@7stud Many people know a few command line tools for very simple CLI tasks, and they may not know how to compile software. People sometimes struggle to understand what ./configure and make exactly do and why those are needed in the first place. Or they don't want to deal with it. Or read any help files, for that matter. They'd rather do something like apt-get install. It's fine if you prefer installations from source (and I personally do, too), but you have to accept that there are solutions that are perceived easier by others, or perhaps even the majority of normal computer users. – slhck Apr 9 '15 at 6:56
People sometimes struggle to understand what ./configure and make exactly do and why those are needed in the first place I've been installing software from source for 15 years, and I have no idea what ./configure and make do. I just know they are steps I need to perform in order to install software. I blindly read the README and INSTALL files, and I do whatever it says. – 7stud Apr 9 '15 at 17:08

There isn’t a formal tree command per se however you can do this:

Save the following script to /usr/local/bin/tree


SEDMAGIC='s;[^/]*/;|____;g;s;____|; |;g'

if [ "$#" -gt 0 ] ; then

for x in $dirlist; do
     find "$x" -print | sed -e "$SEDMAGIC"

Change the permissions so you can run it:

chmod 755 /usr/local/bin/tree 

Of course you may have to create /usr/local/bin:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/bin/tree 
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It misses all the options of tree, but still a nice little solution. – slhck Nov 21 '11 at 11:01
@slhck hehe it was a quick hack solution... – Ahmed Masud Nov 21 '11 at 11:05
You might want to quote your variables though. – slhck Nov 21 '11 at 11:12
@JenS. of course you can simply change the find command to deal with that – Ahmed Masud Sep 24 '14 at 20:41
genius - love it. – xaphod Sep 29 '15 at 14:08

Or if your administrator won't let you install any of the brew, fink, port tools you can always build it from the source :

curl -O
tar xzvf tree-1.5.3.tgz
cd tree-1.5.3/
ls -al

Edit the Makefile to comment linux part and uncomment osx area:

# Linux defaults:
#CFLAGS=-O2 -Wall -fomit-frame-pointer -DLINUX -D_LARGEFILE64_SOURCE -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64

# Uncomment for OS X:
CFLAGS=-O2 -Wall -fomit-frame-pointer -no-cpp-precomp

Optional: Forcing color output

And while you're at it, if you want to force tree to always colorize the output, you can always edit the main method of the tree.c file and add force_color=TRUE; before setLocale(LC_TYPE,"");

Finally hit make and you're done building tree for mac.

Tribute goes to Shaun Chapman for his original post on his blog.

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Couldn't get to Shaun's website; thanks for the heads up on modifying the Makefile. – Paul Nathan Oct 26 '12 at 14:27
Specifically, you can add force_color = TRUE;. No semicolon and you get a compile error. – tgrosinger Sep 6 '13 at 15:55
I've just built version 1.7 and instead of setLocale its setlocale. So in tree.c, you look for setlocale(LC_TYPE,""); and thanks! – Avi Cohen May 2 '14 at 9:49
Great answer. Can you add a note on how to move it to /bin (or some path so that it can be used globally)? – Khanh Nguyen Oct 10 '14 at 4:57
FYI, compiling 1.7.0 under Yosemite I got: warning: format specifies type 'long' but the argument has type 'long long'. The fix was to change a format specifier from %9ld to %9lld. – David Moles Jan 21 '15 at 18:02

Not exactly the same, but one quick way on the Mac is:

find .

and that's it. It will list all file paths in the current directory as a list.

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If interested in a particular directory: find ./<dir_name> – raspacorp Jul 8 at 22:12

An alternative using find and awk:

find . -print 2>/dev/null | awk '!/\.$/ { \
    for (i=1; i<NF; i++) { \
        printf("%4s", "|") \
    } \
    print "-- "$NF \
}' FS='/'
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Adding a small point to @apuche's answer for OSX El Capitan rootless feature. make install fails since we are not allowed to write into /usr/bin directory.

vikas@MBP:~/Downloads/tree-1.7.0$ sudo make install
install -d /usr/bin
install: chmod 755 /usr/bin: Operation not permitted
install -d /usr/share/man/man1
if [ -e tree ]; then \
        install tree /usr/bin/tree; \
install: /usr/bin/tree: Operation not permitted
make: *** [install] Error 71

To overcome this, just edit Makefile to have prefix = /usr/local

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Well, this technically works. But it’s invasive. So you could probably run ./configure --prefix=/usr/local before running make and make install and it would achieve the same results. – JakeGould Jan 12 at 3:23
@JakeGould Absolutely, I do use prefix in such scenarios. But there is no configure file in the latest version of tree (1.7.0) now. The INSTALL file in the unzipped directory just says to use make and make install straightaway. – vikas027 Jan 12 at 3:29

It's not as pretty as gnu tree ... but it's real easy to alias in bash ... You can even add a little color by tacking the G option on to osx's ls color.

alias tree='find . -type d | ls -lARG'
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I added the following to ~/.bash_profile for use in Some comments are included to help remember how find is being used.

## tree ##
## example ...
#| |____.DS_Store
#| |____CyclesCards.json
#| |____Carbon
#| | |____Carbon.json
# alternate: alias tree='find . -print | sed -e "s;[^/]*/;|____;g;s;____|; |;g"'
# use$ tree ; tree . ; tree [some-folder-path]
function tree {
    find ${1:-.} -print | sed -e 's;[^/]*/;|____;g;s;____|; |;g'

example for the current directory

$> tree

example for some path

$> tree /some/path
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Here is a Ruby script solution that produces a nice Unicode tree along with useful metadata.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
def tree_hierarchy( root, &children )
  queue = [[root,"",true]]
  [].tap do |results|
    until queue.empty?
      item,indent,last = queue.pop
      kids = children[item]
      extra = indent.empty? ? '' : last ? '└╴' : '├╴'
      results << [ indent+extra, item ]
      results << [ indent, nil ] if last and kids.empty?
      indent += last ? '  ' : '│ '
      parts ={ |k| [k,indent,false] }.reverse
      parts.first[2] = true unless parts.empty?
      queue.concat parts
def tree(dir)
  cols = tree_hierarchy(File.expand_path(dir)) do |d| ? Dir.chdir(d){ Dir['*'].map(&File.method(:expand_path)) } : [] do |indent,path|
    if path
      file = File.basename(path) + ? '/' : ''
      meta = `ls -lhd "#{path}"`.split(/\s+/)
      [ [indent,file].join, meta[0], meta[4], "%s %-2s %s" % meta[5..7] ]
  maxs =*(cols[1..-1])).map{ |c| }
  tmpl ={ |n,i| "%#{'-' if cols[0][i][/^\D/]}#{n}s" }.join('  '){ |a| a.length==1 ? a.first : tmpl % a }
puts tree(ARGV.first || ".") if __FILE__==$0

You could modify the meta = … line to extract different metadata to display, hand-picking out the split pieces on the next line. With a little more work you could pass arbitrary ls arguments to select the metadata to show.

Sample output (looks nicer in the OS X terminal than the font on Stack Overflow):

phrogz$ tree UCC_IVI/
UCC_IVI/                               drwxr-xr-x  510B  Nov 20 11:07
  ├╴docs/                              drwxr-xr-x  102B  Nov 20 19:21
  │ └╴CANMessages.txt                  -rwxr-xr-x  2.2K  Nov 20 19:21
  ├╴effects/                           drwxr-xr-x  204B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ ├╴Depth Of Field HQ Blur.effect    -rwxr-xr-x  2.4K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ ├╴FXAA.effect                      -rwxr-xr-x  1.6K  Nov 17 15:38
  │ ├╴HDRBloomTonemap.effect           -rwxr-xr-x   11K  Nov 17 15:38
  │ └╴SMAA1X.effect                    -rwxr-xr-x  4.4K  Nov 19 17:19
  ├╴fonts/                             drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 17 15:38
  │ ├╴Arimo-Regular.ttf                -rwxr-xr-x   43K  Nov 17 15:38
  │ └╴OFL.txt                          -rwxr-xr-x  4.3K  Nov 17 15:38
  ├╴maps/                              drwxr-xr-x  238B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ ├╴alpha-maps/                      drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 17 15:38
  │ │ ├╴rounded-boxes-3.png            -rwxr-xr-x  3.6K  Nov 17 15:38
  │ │ └╴splatter-1.png                 -rwxr-xr-x   35K  Nov 17 15:38
  │ │ 
  │ ├╴effects/                         drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ ├╴           -rwxr-xr-x  175K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ └╴SearchTex-yflipped.png         -rwxr-xr-x  180B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ 
  │ ├╴IBL/                             drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 17 15:38
  │ │ ├╴028-hangar.hdr                 -rwxr-xr-x  1.5M  Nov 17 15:38
  │ │ └╴FieldAirport.hdr               -rwxr-xr-x  1.5M  Nov 17 15:38
  │ │ 
  │ ├╴icons/                           drwxr-xr-x  238B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ ├╴               -rwxr-xr-x  683K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ ├╴                 -rwxr-xr-x  683K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ ├╴            -rwxr-xr-x  683K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ ├╴                 -rwxr-xr-x  683K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ └╴          -rwxr-xr-x  683K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ 
  │ └╴materials/                       drwxr-xr-x  102B  Nov 19 17:19
  │   └╴spherical_checker.png          -rwxr-xr-x   11K  Nov 19 17:19
  ├╴materials/                         drwxr-xr-x  102B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ └╴thin_glass_refractive.material   -rwxr-xr-x  6.0K  Nov 19 17:19
  ├╴models/                            drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ ├╴BokehParticle/                   drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ ├╴BokehParticle.import           -rwxr-xr-x  739B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │ └╴meshes/                        drwxr-xr-x  102B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │   └╴Mesh.mesh                    -rwxr-xr-x  1.1K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ │   
  │ └╴Glass_Button/                    drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 19 17:19
  │   ├╴Glass_Button.import            -rwxr-xr-x  1.2K  Nov 19 17:19
  │   └╴meshes/                        drwxr-xr-x  136B  Nov 19 17:19
  │     ├╴GlassButton.mesh             -rwxr-xr-x   44K  Nov 19 17:19
  │     └╴Icon.mesh                    -rwxr-xr-x  1.8K  Nov 19 17:19
  ├╴scripts/                           drwxr-xr-x  204B  Nov 19 17:19
  │ ├╴App.lua                          -rwxr-xr-x  764B  Nov 17 15:38
  │ ├╴CANSim.lua                       -rwxr-xr-x   29K  Nov 17 15:38
  │ ├╴ObjectWiggler.lua                -rwxr-xr-x  3.7K  Nov 19 17:19
  │ └╴PathWiggler.lua                  -rwxr-xr-x  2.9K  Nov 17 15:38
  ├╴states/                            drwxr-xr-x  170B  Nov 19 18:45
  │ ├╴app-camera.scxml                 -rwxr-xr-x  2.4K  Nov 20 11:07
  │ ├╴app-navigation.scxml             -rwxr-xr-x  590B  Nov 19 18:32
  │ └╴logic.scxml                      -rwxr-xr-x  4.2K  Nov 19 18:59
  ├╴tests/                             drwxr-xr-x  102B  Nov 17 15:38
  │ └╴interface-navigation.scxml-test  -rwxr-xr-x   83B  Nov 17 15:38
  ├╴UCC_IVI.uia                        -rwxr-xr-x  630B  Nov 19 17:32
  ├╴UCC_IVI.uia-user                   -rwxr-xr-x  832B  Nov 20 17:22
  ├╴UCC_IVI.uip                        -rwxr-xr-x  1.5K  Nov 17 15:38
  └╴UCC_Menu.uip                       -rwxr-xr-x   33K  Nov 19 17:19
share|improve this answer
Thanks very much for the lightweight solution! On OSX 10.9.5 (running stock Ruby 2.0.0), due to a 'no implicit conversion of true into String (TypeError)' error, I had to change the sixth line of the #tree method to read file = File.basename(path) + ( ? '/' : '') – joel.neely Jul 16 at 13:33

You should probably be using homebrew. If you do:

brew install tree
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