macOS ‘ls -l’ command: What does ‘@’ mean?

When using Apple’s macOS Terminal application, sometimes you’ll issue the ls -l command and see @ characters in the ls command output, like this:

$ ls -l
total 1280
-rw-r--r--@ 1 al  staff   1695 Dec 24 17:19
-rw-r--r--  1 al  staff   4064 Dec 24 14:41
-rw-r--r--@ 1 al  staff  20580 Dec 24 14:41
-rw-r--r--@ 1 al  staff  15960 Dec 24 14:29

Today I learned that the @ character means that the file has extended attributes.

Viewing the extended attributes

This SO page shows that you can issue these macOS xattr commands to see and manage the extended file attributes:

xattr -l file                       # lists the names of all xattrs
xattr -w attr_name attr_value file  # sets xattr attr_name to attr_value
xattr -d attr_name file             # deletes xattr attr_name
xattr -c file                       # deletes all xattrs
xattr -h                            # prints help

That same page notes that you can use the ls -l@ command to see the attributes in the ls output:

$ ls -l@
total 1280
-rw-r--r--@ 1 al  staff   1695 Dec 24 17:19
    com.macromates.selectionRange       1 
    com.macromates.visibleIndex     1 

I use the MacroMates TextMate editor quite a bit, and apparently it stores those extended file attributes for each file I edited, or perhaps each file I had visible when I closed the editor.

If you ever wondered what the @ character in the Mac ls -l output means, I hope that’s helpful.