Most unix derivates can copy ACLs from one file to another with:

getfacl filename1 | setfacl -f - filename2

Unfortunately Mac OS X does not have the getfacl and setfacl commands, as they have rolled ACL handling into chmod. chmod -E accepts a list of ACLs on stdin, but I haven't found a command that will spit out ACLs in a suitable format on stdout. The best I have come up with is:

ls -led filename1 | tail +2 | sed 's/^ *[0-9][0-9]*: *//' | chmod -E filename2

Is there a more robust solution?

Bonus question: is there a nice way to do it in Python, without using any modules that aren't shipped with 10.6?

  • 1
    So it's now year 2020, and macOS still has no getfacl/setfacl. Quite remarkable. github.com/jvscode/getfacl is 10 years old I've not been able to make it work. serverfault.com/a/303752/104173 looks complicated, and I'm not clear if it attempts to replace get/setfacl functionality. I get it that macOS is not a server platform, but it can still experience security intrusions. Is it worth restarting this conversation on apple.stackexchange.com? Feb 24, 2020 at 14:49

4 Answers 4


ls -e Print the Access Control List (ACL) associated with the file, if present, in long (-l) output.

this gives a result such as...

drwxr-xr-x@ 19 localadmin   646B Aug  4 00:21  APPBUNDLE
0: user:localadmin allow add_file,add_subdirectory,writeattr,writeextattr,writesecurity
                   ⬆    ⇧                      ⇶                                     ⬆

Personally, I have "exports" in my ~/.bash_profile

export FILE_ALL="read,write,append,execute,delete,readattr,writeattr,readextattr,writeextattr,readsecurity,writesecurity,chown"
export DIR_ALL="list,search,add_file,add_subdirectory,delete_child,readattr,writeattr,readextattr,writeextattr,readsecurity,writesecurity,chown"

that make such a chmod possible...

sudo chmod +a "allow localadmin $DIR_ALL" /APPBUNDLE

From the chmod man page, there is this bit of info... that hints that it may indeed be possible to do something like you describe..

"ACLs are manipulated using extensions to the symbolic mode grammar. Each file has one ACL, containing an ordered list of entries. Each entry refers to a user or group, and grants or denies a set of permissions. In cases where a user and a group exist with the same name, the user/group name can be prefixed with "user:" or "group:" in order to specqify the type of name."

chmod -E Reads the ACL information from stdin, as a sequential list of ACEs, separated by newlines. If the information parses correctly, the existing information is replaced.

Also, I'll give a shout out to BatchMod, an oldie, but a goodie for ACL's, as well as TinkerToolSystem.

  • This worked for me, but I had to change the chmod command to: sudo chmod +a "localadmin allow $DIR_ALL" /APPBUNDLE (switching the user name and the allow)
    – E. Moffat
    Jan 23, 2019 at 21:02

Maybe have a look at https://github.com/jvscode/getfacl.

  • 1
    Good reference. Alas, this project appears to be 10 years old, has no setfacl (only getfacl), and the getfacl functionality appears to be quite limited. I've unfortunately not found a better solution. Feb 24, 2020 at 14:54
  • That is a vintage repo.
    – Watchmaker
    Oct 9, 2020 at 9:25

https://github.com/ptrrkssn/acltool might be of interrest - it works on MacOS, FreeBSD, Linux & Solaris. I got tired of the different ACL tools on each system so decided to create one that works the same on all...

With it you can do things like:

% acltool list-access  -v .
# file: .
# owner: peter (501)
# group: staff (20)
# type: directory
        group:everyone:-----d--------:-------:deny  # gid=12

% mkdir t

% acltool copy-access -v . t
t: ACL Updated

% acltool edac -v peter:full_set t
t: ACL Updated

% acltool lac t
# file: t
# owner: peter
# group: staff

(It has some bugs but mostly works now)


You should be able to get stat to format its output in a suitable way.

  • 1
    stat doesn't list ACLs.
    – MagerValp
    Sep 19, 2010 at 13:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .