The command

shell$ ls . -R 

works on Linux but not on OS X. This is because OS X command line options have to come before the arguments,and not just anywhere as in Linux.

In particular, this means that any shell scripts I write on Linux will be unportable to Macs.

Question How can I fix this on the Mac?

I can either take care to write portable Linux scripts, or I can install MacPorts so that ls and other commands will be picked from MacPorts and not the Apple provided binaries. Is there any better way?

1 Answer 1


Short answer: whichever suits you.

If your Unix background is mainly from Linux, you’re probably used to GNU commands. As you’ve noticed, they can be different from other Unix/Unix-based operating systems. Depending on how complex your scripts are, you can either:

  • make simple changes (like using ls -R . instead of ls . -R), which will work in most (if not all) Unix/Unix-based system and not only on GNU-based ones,

  • or install the GNU utilities from MacPorts if you think that there’d be too many/complex changes, or if you prefer to stick to the GNU commands you’re already used to.

If you want to take some time and write portable scripts, do it. If you think that’s not worth it, then don’t. Just bear in mind that not every Unix/Unix-based system uses GNU by default.

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