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How do I find a the last created file in the current directory on a Linux machine?

Note: I don't know the mtime.

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5 Answers 5

A solution safe with files with spaces. Strings are terminated with 0 with print0.

$ touch "file with spaces"
$ find . -maxdepth 1 -type f   -print0 | xargs -0r ls -ltr  | tail -1
-rw-rw-r-- 1 jris  jris      0 jun  3 15:35 ./file with spaces

or maybe simpler

ls -ltrp | grep -v / | tail -1

-p adds a trailing / to directories and the grep removes them.

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This get the latest changed file. If it really needs to be creation time, in ext4 that is stored, see –  jris198944 Jun 3 '14 at 13:52
Why are you even suggesting xargs? The other answers, piping ls into head or tail, handle filenames with spaces, and your xargs solution doesn’t handle filenames with newlines. –  Scott Jun 3 '14 at 23:11

If you are on an ext filesystem, you can use debugfs to get the creation date of an inode. So, you could collect the inodes for each file in the current directory and then sort by creation time:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

## This will hold the newest timestamp

## Get the partition we are running on
fs=$(df  --output=source "$@"  | tail -1); 

## Iterate through the files in the directory
## given as a target
for file in "$@"/*; do 
    ## Only process files
    if [ -f "$file" ]; then 
        ## Get this file's inode
        inode=$(ls -i "$file" | awk 'NR==1{print $1}'); 
        ## Get its creation time
        crtime=$(sudo debugfs -R 'stat <'"${inode}"'>' $fs 2>/dev/null | grep -oP 'crtime.*-- \K.*'); 
        ## Convert it to a Unix timestamp
        timestamp=$(date -d "$crtime" +%s)
        ## Is this newer than the newest?
        if [[ $timestamp -gt $newestT ]]; then
## Print the newest file
echo "$newest"

Save the script above as ~/bin/, make it executable (chmod 744 and run like this:

~/bin/ /target/directory


  • Unlike the other answers, this one will actually return the newest file in terms of its creation date, not the one that was modified most recently.

  • It will only work on ext4 (perhaps 3, not sure) filesystems.

  • It can deal with any file names, spaces and newlines etc are not a problem.

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Classic Unix filesystems don't store file creation time. The closest you get on classic filesystems is inode creation time. This is not when the file is created in the current directory, but when it was created on that filesystem. If it moves, the inode is moved, but the creation time stays the same. If you "move" across filesystems, that's really a copy+rm and the inode is created on the new filesystem. This may or may not be what you want.

The command: ls -1c | head -1 will find the latest inode creation time.

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No! ls –c shows inode change time, which is similar to modification time but even worse (even more volatile). (And see my other comment about ls -1.) –  Scott Jun 3 '14 at 23:13
Actually, many file systems do store the creation time (see my answer) but the kernel API does not give access to it so other tools are needed. In any case, Scott is quite right, this is just showing the file that was modified most recently. –  terdon Jun 6 '14 at 9:36
ls -ltrh 

and the last file shown in the bottom is the newest.

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No, it's the one that was modified last. –  terdon Jun 6 '14 at 9:31

Linux doesn't store a timestamp for the birth of a file, but if no other files have been changed in the directory since its creation, you can sort the files by their modification time and return the first.

ls -at | head -1
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(1) You don’t have to say -1; ls automatically goes into one file per line mode when the output is redirected. (2) You do need to say -a, in case the file’s name begins with a period. –  Scott Jun 3 '14 at 23:08
Thanks, changed. Although, be warned that -a might be .. or . which could be trouble for certain scripts. –  Vortico Jun 3 '14 at 23:45
then there is ls -A that show dot files at the exception of .. and . –  Pablo Saratxaga Jun 4 '14 at 0:14
@Pablo, @Vortico: Good point; the user probably would want to exclude . and ... (The again, since the question says “last created file”, the right answer might be ls -atl | grep "^-" | head -1.) –  Scott Jun 4 '14 at 13:43
Strictly speaking, the creation time is stored by certain file systems but the kernel API does not provide a call for it. –  terdon Jun 6 '14 at 9:30

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