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27.3 Numeric Modes

As an alternative to giving a symbolic mode, you can give an octal (base 8) number that represents the mode. This number is always interpreted in octal; you do not have to add a leading ‘0’, as you do in C. Mode ‘0055’ is the same as mode ‘55’. (However, modes of five digits or more, such as ‘00055’, are sometimes special. See Directory Setuid and Setgid.)

A numeric mode is usually shorter than the corresponding symbolic mode, but it is limited in that normally it cannot take into account the previous file mode bits; it can only set them absolutely. The set-user-ID and set-group-ID bits of directories are an exception to this general limitation. See Directory Setuid and Setgid. Also, operator numeric modes can take previous file mode bits into account. See Operator Numeric Modes.

The permissions granted to the user, to other users in the file’s group, and to other users not in the file’s group each require three bits, which are represented as one octal digit. The three special mode bits also require one bit each, and they are as a group represented as another octal digit. Here is how the bits are arranged, starting with the lowest valued bit:

Value in  Corresponding
Mode      Mode Bit

          Other users not in the file's group:
   1      Execute/search
   2      Write
   4      Read

          Other users in the file's group:
  10      Execute/search
  20      Write
  40      Read

          The file's owner:
 100      Execute/search
 200      Write
 400      Read

          Special mode bits:
1000      Restricted deletion flag or sticky bit
2000      Set group ID on execution
4000      Set user ID on execution

For example, numeric mode ‘4755’ corresponds to symbolic mode ‘u=rwxs,go=rx’, and numeric mode ‘664’ corresponds to symbolic mode ‘ug=rw,o=r’. Numeric mode ‘0’ corresponds to symbolic mode ‘a=’.

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