Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

A file recently appeared on my desktop, an image of a chess board.

I'd like to know a bit more about it. Unfortunately, thinking it was a gift from someone I knew, I have opened it in Gimp, modified it, and saved it. So I can't even see what day the file was created (since ls -al only shows me date modified, not date created).

Is there some utility for learning more about a file in Ubuntu (the OS I am using)?

share|improve this question
You could try opening it in a hex-editor to see if there is any metadata that gives clues as to its origin, but the program you used to edit it may or may not have retained the original metadata. – Synetech Jul 25 '12 at 4:18
Mystery solved with regards to the file itself: turns out it is exactly what I thought it was! Question still stands. – Ziggy Jul 26 '12 at 4:54
Well how did you figure it out? Next time, just use whatever technique you used this time. – Synetech Jul 26 '12 at 4:57
Ha ha, yes: it was an HR problem that I solved in the HR domain. I'd like a more general solution for the future. Good suggestion though! – Ziggy Jul 26 '12 at 16:29

To answer your sub-question: To see the date the file was created, add -U (OS X and other BSDs) or -c (Linux) to your ls options.

See also stat(1).

If you were on a Mac and use Time Machine, or if you were using an app that makes use of autosave in OS X 10.7 Lion and later, use Time Machine to check for previous revisions of the file, and then check their metadata using a tool that understands the metadata of that file format.

Depending on what OS you're on, there may be other pieces of metadata (extended attributes, etc.) for the file embedded in the filesystem's entry for that file, not in the file itself. So the answer would vary by OS.

It's always good to specify which OS(es) and OS versions you're talking about when asking questions here. Gimp runs lots of places including OS X and Windows, so we can't assume you meant a certain flavor of Linux just because you said you used Gimp.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the note there: I am on linux. It appears that the -c option for ls just displays the last modified time? – Ziggy Jul 26 '12 at 16:34
Even the created timestamp may be changed depending on how the program the OP edited it with behaves. It may copy the created timestamp of the original file to the modified file, or it may just leave it with the current time. – Synetech Jul 26 '12 at 16:43
@Ziggy Oops, I didn't read the Linux man page carefully enough. -c lists/sorts by the ctime, which is the last time the inode was changed, not its creation time. Filesystems in use with OS X and other BSDs have a real file creation time (birth time). I don't know the details of this on Linux. – Spiff Jul 27 '12 at 2:00

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.