FSlint: annoyingly vague, but useful

Version 2.20 of FSlint is a program whose functionality is at odds with its design. On the one hand, a program for -- as the name suggests --- locating and removing unnecessary or useless material ("lint") from a filesystem is a handy one to install. On the other hand, a rough interface with cryptic buttons and options and a lack of anything except minimal help files makes accessing its options a bit of a challenge, especially at first.

If you choose, you can run FSlint using /usr/share/fslint/fslint/fslint from the command line. This method returns a summary on all the items that FSlint searches for, which range from duplicate files, files with names incompatible with UTF-8, through installed packages to temporary files and empty directory. Alternatively, you can start FSlint with the command fslint-gui. For once, the graphical version of the program seems to add all the functionality of the command line version, but you should probably run the command line version first, in order to understand some of the buttons in the GUI. Otherwise, you might not understand some of the abbreviations, since the help is otherwise confined to man and info files that tell you little of what to expect.

When you open the graphical version, at the top of the FSlint window is a pane for setting the search by path. By default, it shows the present working directory of the current user account, although perhaps the root directory would be a better choice. You can add additional paths through a file dialogue, or remove highlighted ones. The option for a recursive search path is enabled by default, which is a good thing, since otherwise you could easily miss the box labelled Recursive? on the far right of the pane, and waste your time in unproductive searches. On the Advanced search parameters tab, you can also list paths to exclude using the same controls; /dev and /lost+found are excluded by default, as well as extra parameters for the find command.

When you have defined the search paths, you set the search item from a series of buttons in the bottom pane. Some of these search items have additional choices. For instance, you can search for temporary files of a minimum age, or for bad symbolic links of five different sorts.

Some of these choices are clear enough. For instance, anyone doing administration can be reasonably expected to know what absolute and symbolic links are; after all, FSlint is not a program for everyday users.

However, anyone can be excused for finding other choices obscure, at least at first glance. After a moment's hesitation, you should be able to figure out that the Dangling radio button for symbolic links probably refers to ones pointing to deleted files, but the distinction intended by the Suspect button is likely to be more elusive. Similarly, while the option under Bad Names to search for Invalid UTF8 mode presumably refers to compatibility with the encoding, what are the parameters for the sensitivity slider bar? What are you selecting when setting a search for temporary files to use the core file mode? Why do only name clashes and non-stripped binaries have an option for search $PATH? In such cases, any efforts at clarity seem to take second place to squeezing option names on to the GUI.

But, whatever the reason, in naming options, FSlint seems to desert users altogether. Users with intermediate proficiency in GNU/Linux administration can answer some of these questions, but the combination of obscure abbreviations and the lack of detailed helped files make what should be a relatively straightforward program needlessly harder to use. And this is not a program still in early advantages, but one that has gone through two major versions.

Once you decipher these options, your search begins with a click of the Find button at the bottom of the window. Depending on the search and the contents of your file system, FSlint's searches can take many minutes, so the program provides a stop button while a search is under weigh. However, if you persist, the results eventually appear in the bottom pane, from which you can save the results, or use the pane to delete selected results.

Incidentally, the Select button, if you right-click it, has a small menu of options for selecting results -- something you might never have guessed from the rest of the interface.

It is at this point that the usefulness of FSlint for cleaning your system finally becomes clear. You may want to be careful of false positives, or of hits in the results that you still need to keep on your system, but the program unquestionably provides a thorough set of results for anything that you search for. The first time you run it especially may surprise you with the amount of lint that it finds on your system.

Whether you decide to use FSlint will probably depend on your patience for its vagaries. However, if you put aside the interface problems, you may find FSlint a valuable maintenance tool. Whether you do, I suspect, depends on how long you have been using a computer (or, just possibly, on your early toilet training). If you started computing when a shortage of hard drive space wasn't a chronic problem, then FSlint is probably no more useful to you than a first-class file manager is in these days of search programs like Beagle.

However, if you developed your computing habits in the days when a 20 megabyte hard drive was an impressive storage solution -- or if you simply like knowing where everything is on your hard drive -- then FSlint is probably a program you'd like to add to your regular system maintenance. Have a little patience, and you'll find your restraint rewarded with useful information for cleaning your system.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for the Linux.com and Linux Journal websites.


Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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I'm new to linux and I'm

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles's picture

I'm new to linux and I'm finding this site very useful, including this article.


Anonymous's picture

One would definitely have to know their way around the administrative curve to get it. thats for sure.


grayson's picture

will familiarizing self with Fslint make word processing better?

Select button

Pozycjonowanie Stron's picture

Now the select button gives the same option menu if you left or right click it.

I have noticed that

Blogger's picture

I have noticed that everything in Open Source begins this way and then moves towards becoming user friendly. Cant explain why, but it has been this way.


Greece Travel's picture

Thats the great thing with Open Source. More programmers and developers keep getting involved because of their love for the work, and improvements are constantly being made.


natalie1981's picture

Heck, opensource rocks--period. :D


Great review

Argus's picture

I will download the software and will try it. Thanks for the review

I ran fslint-gui in

Don Jine's picture

I ran fslint-gui in duplicate-check mode over my multimedia collection, and it reported this error:

exceptions.OSError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: '/mnt/unpackfs/data/shared/downloaded/showtunes/02 -'

I have a file with that name, except with a trailing space. I don't know why I had such a file, so don't ask...

This came from the python part of program, since I followed its progress, first traversing the tree, then md5sum, then sha1sum, then python. (can there be a tickbox to turn off one or the other of sha1/md5sum in the gui? The chances of an accidental collision are pretty low.) fslint is slow enough already, esp. when running over a FUSE mount (unpackfs in my case). I'll try the command line options...

Wow, you just gave me a

Cell Phone Reviews's picture

Wow, you just gave me a flashback to those 20gb hard drives. I thought that no sane person would ever be able to fill up that much disk space.

old days...

flip flops's picture

lol, remember when bill gates said "Nobody will ever need more than 640KB RAM." no thats funny ! Just like 20 g drives as technology advances more and more utilization will occur .

Ease Of Use

Free Legal Forms Online's picture

Initially, when using FSlint, I found using the command line first helped me to understand the GUI version better. Having said that, I use the GUI version more often than not.

Can you give me some more

Anonymous's picture

Can you give me some more references to this program? I am interested in learning about it and implementing it in my work area. Kindly do respond.

This Cat Is New To Linux

Cats's picture

I'm new to linux and I'm finding this site very useful, including this article. Thanks!

so as me..

Mike's picture

We are in same boat, linux is giving me hardtime and this site is helping me truly. Thanks for the nice article.


Pets's picture

Yeah cheers, this article has come in very handy.

Giving it a try

Poodle Lover's picture

Hi all,

I'm rather new to linux, run ubuntu 64 bits and kde at home, and centos and redhat in the office servers.

My first impression on linux was that the learning courve woud be slow and extense for me, but I cant regret from taking the time for it.

I'm getting to general, regarding FSlint I'm giving it a chance at home and hope it pays as with other soft I've found out reading linuxjournal.


U r such a dumb ass did you know that?

Delta's picture

...observations from someone else’s point of view… it makes you think more...
Makes me want to throw up when I see your lazy post again and again..
How many times did you copy that stupid frase all over the net so far, a 1000 times? I know I have seen it 50 times already.
Quit slumping and get a new lines or new life u idiot.


Dog Obedience's picture

Those are pretty harsh words, let's stick to talking about Linux.

Find MP3 Dups

SuperMau's picture

I use it to find dups in my MP3 collection and I think it does a very nice job...


thanks for the feedback

Pádraig Brady's picture


I'm the author of FSlint, and have just noticed this article.
First of all a link to the FSlint homepage would be useful I think.

You're correct that disk space is not as big an issue as it once was,
but it's a huge issue for some, and it's always nice to minimise
your data, considering backups etc. The main reason behind FSlint
is to find and fix logical errors in your data.

I think you're being a little unfair on the interface, but
I will try and address your concerns for the next version.

Note the select button you mention gives the same option menu,
if you left or right click it (or right click the results list).



Puzzle Games's picture

Many thanks for the FSlint Homepage...


Anonymous's picture

If you use KDE Kleansweep (http://www.kde-apps.org/content/show.php?content=28631) is also worth a look.

Thanks for the link...

Kredi's picture

Thanks for the link...