As an alternative to giving a symbolic mode, you can give an octal (base 8) number that represents the new 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.
A numeric mode is usually shorter than the corresponding symbolic mode, but it is limited in that it cannot take into account a file's previous permissions; it can only set them absolutely.
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 permissions 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 Permission Other users not in the file's group: 1 Execute 2 Write 4 Read Other users in the file's group: 10 Execute 20 Write 40 Read The file's owner: 100 Execute 200 Write 400 Read Special permissions: 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=’.