Using Dired as a file manager

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Python with Elpy

Julien is going to present on this. His notes are here:

Using dired as a file manager in Emacs

For reference, anything I've taken from my config can be seen here:

Dired is a built-in feature of Emacs that builds a file listing and allows you to see/modify/open/etc files that are in a directory.

One of the great things about it is that it also supports all of the abstractions that Emacs does, like TRAMP for accessing remote machines.

You might have seen it if you open a directory with find-file by accident instead of a file, but you can invoke it manually by doing M-x dired-jump. It defaults to the current directory. By default, you can also hit C-x d and be prompted for where to open a dired buffer.

(I like to bind dired-jump to C-x C-j but that's just my preference)

Key Action
C-x d Prompt for directory and open dired there

Once inside of dired, you can navigate and perform actions with the following: (this is a subset that I find the most useful)

Key Action
n/p next-line/previous-line
RET open a file or directory
f open the file
e open the file
o open the file in the other window (alongside)
! perform a shell function on the file
& perform a shell function asynchronously on the file
( hide/unhide details for the listing
+ prompt to create a directory
Z compress or uncompress file at point
g refresh buffer
i insert the sub-directory at point
m mark a file to do something on it later
C copy the file to a location
R rename/move the file to a location
D delete the file
d mark a file to be deleted
x perform the deletion of the files that are marked as deleted
M chmod a file (change permissions)
O chown a file (change owner)
G chgrp a file (change group)
q quit/close the dired window
u unmark a file
U unmark all files


Customizing Dired

Dired has a bunch of options, here are some that I like setting


This changes the switches that are passed to the ls command when a dired buffer has been generated. On Linux I like to set mine to:

(setq dired-listing-switches "-lFaGh1v --group-directories-first")

On OSX, however, ls doesn't support all this, so I do the following:

;; brew install coreutils
(if (executable-find "gls")
      (setq insert-directory-program "gls")
      (setq dired-listing-switches "-lFaGh1v --group-directories-first"))
  (setq dired-listing-switches "-ahlF"))

gls is the GNU version of ls that can be installed, if it doesn't exist I fall back to a different set of switches (just on OSX).


By default dired will list files and directories in alphabetical order. If you would rather have directories at the top of the file and files below, you can set ls-lisp-dirs-first to t and they will always be at the top.

(setq ls-lisp-dirs-first t)

Recursive copying and deleting

When deleting or copying files, you can have dired default to acting recursively by setting:

(setq dired-recursive-copies 'always)
(setq dired-recursive-deletes 'always)

Showing symlinks differently

Just like with ls, if you want an "@" appended to the end of file names if they're symlinks, you can set the following:

(setq dired-ls-F-marks-symlinks t)

Instead of a hard delete, move a file to the trash

This one is great, does what it says:

(setq delete-by-moving-to-trash t)

Packages to enhance Dired

There are a bunch of packages that can enhance dired or make it better, here are some that I use


This is a package, but not really an external one because it's built into Emacs, by doing this you can easily jump to dired while browsing for files with C-j.

(require 'dired-x)

Here's how I like to configure dired-x:

(use-package dired-x
    :init (setq-default dired-omit-files-p t)
    (add-to-list 'dired-omit-extensions ".DS_Store"))


Also built into Emacs, this is what provides the chgrp, chown, chmod functionality as well as some other builtins

(require 'dired-aux)


Another awesome extension for Dired that's built into Emacs, this makes the dired buffer writable, you can hit C-x C-q to enter the mode, make your changes and then hit C-c C-c to apply them, or C-c ESC to discard them.



Dired+ provides additional fontification (colors), enhances some of the existing functionality (like the i command), allows operating on all files or files and directories in the directory and adds the diredp-hide-details-initially-flag that allows hiding or showing details automatically when opening new Dired buffers.


The dired-narrow function (which hails for the dired-hacks project) allows you to narrow a dired buffer to only files that match a particular name. I like to bind it to / in my config

(use-package dired-narrow
  :ensure t
  :bind (:map dired-mode-map
              ("/" . dired-narrow)))

Asynchronous Dired

You can make the copy and rename/move commands in dired by installing the async package. From there, all you need to do is:

(require 'dired-async)

And the commands will automatically by asynchronous


Not dired-specific per-se, but quick-preview is great for files that Emacs might not be able to open, but your regular X11 (or OSX's quick preview) can show well, like moves are things. Works great when you're in a dired buffer to preview a file.

I like to bind it globally to C-c q and in dired to Q

(use-package quick-preview
  :ensure t
  (global-set-key (kbd "C-c q") 'quick-preview-at-point)
  (define-key dired-mode-map (kbd "Q") 'quick-preview-at-point))

Author: Lee Hinman

Created: 2016-05-25 Wed 11:16