How can I do a simple find which would order the results by most recently modified?

Here is the current find I am using (I am doing a shell escape in PHP, so that is the reasoning for the variables):

find '$dir' -name '$str'\* -print | head -10

How could I have this order the search by most recently modified? (Note I do not want it to sort 'after' the search, but rather find the results based on what was most recently modified.)

migrated from stackoverflow.com Jun 7 '11 at 18:40

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16 Answers 16

Use this:

find . -printf "%T@ %Tc %p\n" | sort -n

printf arguments from man find:

  • %Tk: File's last modification time in the format specified by k.

  • @: seconds since Jan. 1, 1970, 00:00 GMT, with fractional part.

  • c: locale's date and time (Sat Nov 04 12:02:33 EST 1989).

  • %p: File's name.

  • 5
    +1 Very useful, the first answer to this I have found with a readable/useful date output – Jake N Jun 26 '13 at 13:48
  • most reliable (and very simple) as the time is granted to be numerically sequential (therefore always properly sortable), thx! – Aquarius Power Oct 26 '14 at 1:31
  • 1
    I have this alias for finding recent files in my ~/.zshrc: fr () { find ./ -iname "*"$@"*" -printf "%T@ %Td-%Tb-%TY %Tk:%TM %p\n" | sort -n | cut -d " " -f 2- | grep -i "$@" ; } It recursively finds all files containing the pattern of the first argument passed to the command (fr <pattern>) and sorts them with the most recent one last. – joelostblom Oct 27 '16 at 23:01
  • 3
    For ISO 8601 date output, use find . -printf "%T@ %CY-%Cm-%CdT%CH:%CM:%CS %p\n" | sort -n. As it sorts naturally, it can also be used directly in the sort: find . -printf "%CY-%Cm-%CdT%CH:%CM:%CS %p\n" | sort -n – Peter Mortensen Dec 27 '16 at 14:01
  • @PeterMortensen good comment but yours doesn't include the timezone... – Steven Lu 16 hours ago

The easiest method is to use zsh, thanks to its glob qualifiers.

print -lr -- $dir/**/$str*(om[1,10])

If you have GNU find, make it print the file modification times and sort by that.

find -type f -printf '%T@ %p\0' |
sort -zk 1nr |
sed -z 's/^[^ ]* //' | tr '\0' '\n' | head -n 10

If you have GNU find but not other GNU utilities, use newlines as separators instead of nulls; you'll lose support for filenames containing newlines.

find -type f -printf '%T@ %p\n' |
sort -k 1nr |
sed 's/^[^ ]* //' | head -n 10

If you have Perl (here I'll assume there are no newlines in file names):

find . -type f -print |
perl -l -ne '
    $_{$_} = -M;  # store file age (mtime - now)
    END {
        $,="\n";
        @sorted = sort {$_{$a} <=> $_{$b}} keys %_;  # sort by increasing age
        print @sorted[0..9];
    }'

If you have Python (also assuming no newlines in file names):

find . -type f -print |
python -c 'import os, sys; times = {}
for f in sys.stdin.readlines(): f = f[0:-1]; times[f] = os.stat(f).st_mtime
for f in (sorted(times.iterkeys(), key=lambda f:times[f], reverse=True))[:10]: print f'

There's probably a way to do the same in PHP, but I don't know it.

If you want to work with only POSIX tools, it's rather more complicated; see How to list files sorted by modification date recursively (no stat command available!) (retatining the first 10 is the easy part).

  • I think the find version shows the oldest files, and that you need to add the -r option to sort. – Quentin Pradet Sep 7 '12 at 6:56
  • My sed says it doesn't have a -z option. – Kef Schecter Jul 15 '15 at 4:38
  • @KefSchecter Then use newlines as separators, but you'll lose support for newlines in file names. – Gilles Jul 15 '15 at 8:15
  • The above is for python2. If you only have python3, some small changes: python3 -c 'import os, sys; times = {} for f in sys.stdin.readlines(): f = f[0:-1]; times[f] = os.stat(f).st_mtime for f in (sorted(times.keys(), key=lambda f:times[f], reverse=True))[:10]: print(f);' – Neil McGill Dec 12 '17 at 15:33

You don't need to PHP or Python, just ls:

man ls:
-t     sort by modification time
-r,    reverse order while sorting (--reverse )
-1     list one file per line

find /wherever/your/files/hide -type f -exec ls -1rt "{}" +;

If command * exits with a failure status (ie Argument list too long), then you can iterate with find. Paraphrased from: The maximum length of arguments for a new process

  • find . -print0|xargs -0 command (optimizes speed, if find doesn't implement "-exec +" but knows "-print0")
  • find . -print|xargs command (if there's no white space in the arguments)

If the major part of the arguments consists of long, absolute or relative paths, then try to move your actions into the directory: cd /directory/with/long/path; command * And another quick fix may be to match fewer arguments: command [a-e]*; command [f-m]*; ...

  • 1
    If there are a lot of files, this fails with 'Argument list too long' on the ls. – occulus Sep 3 '12 at 8:41
  • 1
    That's true, but I believe the question was "how do I do a simple find..." – Ярослав Рахматуллин Sep 3 '12 at 10:53
  • 2
    ls doesn't quote file names in a way xargs can understand (no -0 option, and the various quote styles are inadequate) – Tobu Nov 8 '14 at 23:13

You do only need ls

You could do find /wherever/your/files/hide -type f -exec ls -1rt "{}" +; as stated above,

or

ls -1rt `find /wherever/your/file/hides -type f`
  • 2
    If there are a lot of files, this fails with 'Argument list too long' on the ls. Maybe recook to use xargs? – occulus Sep 3 '12 at 8:41
  • 1
    But if xargs calls ls multiple times, the sort will be broken. – Aaron D. Marasco Nov 2 '15 at 17:48
  • This fails for files with spaces in their names. Any advice? – user74094 Jan 19 at 14:16

Extending user195696's answer:

find . -type f -printf "%T@\t%Tc %6k KiB %p\n" | sort -n | cut -f 2-

For each file, this first outputs the numeric timestamp (for sorting by, followed by tabulation \t), then a human-readable timestamp, then the filesize (unfortunately find's -printf can't do in mebibytes, only kibibytes), then the filename with relative path.

Then sort -n sorts it by the first numeric field.

Then cut gets rid of that first numeric field which is of no interest to the user. (Prints second field onward.) The default field separator is \t or tabulation.

Example of output:

Thu 06 Feb 2014 04:49:14 PM EST     64 KiB ./057_h2_f7_10/h2_f7_10.class
Fri 07 Feb 2014 02:08:30 AM EST 7962976 KiB ./056_h2_f7_400/h2__rh_4e-4.mph
Fri 07 Feb 2014 02:23:24 AM EST 7962976 KiB ./056_h2_f7_400/h2_f7_400_out_Model.mph
Fri 07 Feb 2014 02:23:24 AM EST      0 KiB ./056_h2_f7_400/h2_f7_400_out.mph.status
Fri 07 Feb 2014 02:23:24 AM EST     64 KiB ./056_h2_f7_400/1579678.out
Fri 07 Feb 2014 03:47:31 AM EST 8132224 KiB ./057_h2_f7_10/h2__rh_1e-5.mph
Fri 07 Feb 2014 04:00:49 AM EST 8132224 KiB ./057_h2_f7_10/h2_f7_10_out_Model.mph
Fri 07 Feb 2014 04:00:49 AM EST      0 KiB ./057_h2_f7_10/h2_f7_10_out.mph.status
Fri 07 Feb 2014 04:00:49 AM EST     64 KiB ./057_h2_f7_10/1579679.out
Fri 07 Feb 2014 09:47:18 AM EST   9280 KiB ./056_h2_f7_400/h2__rh_4e-4.mat
Fri 07 Feb 2014 10:51:23 AM EST   9728 KiB ./018_bidomain/h2_plain__rh_1e-5.mat
Fri 07 Feb 2014 10:58:33 AM EST   9568 KiB ./057_h2_f7_10/h2__rh_1e-5.mat
Fri 07 Feb 2014 05:05:38 PM EST     64 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2_f7_stationary.java
Fri 07 Feb 2014 06:06:29 PM EST     32 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/slurm.slurm
Sat 08 Feb 2014 03:42:07 AM EST      0 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/1581061.err
Sat 08 Feb 2014 03:42:14 AM EST     64 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2_f7_stationary.class
Sat 08 Feb 2014 03:58:28 AM EST  70016 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2s__rh_1e-5.mph
Sat 08 Feb 2014 04:12:40 AM EST  70304 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2s__rh_4e-4.mph
Sat 08 Feb 2014 04:12:53 AM EST  70304 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2_f7_stationary_out_Model.mph
Sat 08 Feb 2014 04:12:53 AM EST      0 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2_f7_stationary_out.mph.status
Sat 08 Feb 2014 04:12:53 AM EST     32 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/1581061.out
Mon 10 Feb 2014 11:40:54 AM EST    224 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2s__rh_4e-4.mat
Mon 10 Feb 2014 11:42:32 AM EST    224 KiB ./058_h2_f7_stationary/h2s__rh_1e-5.mat
Mon 10 Feb 2014 11:50:08 AM EST     32 KiB ./plot_grid.m

I deliberately made the filesize field 6 characters, because if making it longer, it becomes hard to visually distinguish how large the files are. This way, files larger than 1e6 KiB jut out: by 1 char means 1-9 GB, by 2 chars means 10-99 GB, etc.


Edit: here's another version (since find . -printf "%Tc" crashes on MinGW/MSYS):

find . -type f -printf "%T@\t%p\n" | sort -n | cut -f 2- | xargs -I{} ls -Glath --si {}

Giving output like:

-rw-r--r-- 1 es 23K Jul 10  2010 ./laptop_0000071.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 es 43M Jul 29 19:19 ./work.xcf
-rw-r--r-- 1 es 87K Jul 29 20:11 ./patent_lamps/US Patent 274427 Maxim Lamp Holder.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 es 151K Jul 29 20:12 ./patent_lamps/Edison screw-in socket.png
-rw-r--r-- 1 es 50K Jul 29 20:13 ./patent_lamps/1157 Lamp.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 es 38K Jul 29 20:14 ./patent_lamps/US06919684-20050719-D00001.png

Where:

  • -I{} causes the occurrence of {} to be replaced by an argument, and newlines are now the argument separators (note the spaces in filenames above).

  • ls -G suppresses printing the group name (waste of space).

  • ls -h --si produces human-readable file sizes (more correct with --si).

  • ls -t sorts by time, which is irrelevant here, but that's what I typically use.

  • 1
    Note: to sort by file size instead, simply replace the T@ by s in either of the above commands. – Evgeni Sergeev Dec 23 '14 at 4:43

OS X variant of @user195696's answer:

  1. With timestamp:

    find . -type f -exec stat -f "%Sm %N" -t "%Y%y%m%d%H%M" {} \; | sort -r
    
  2. Without timestamp:

    find . -type f -exec stat -f "%Sm %N" -t "%Y%y%m%d%H%M" {} \; | sort -r | awk -F' ' '{ print substr($0, length($1) + 2) }'
    

I found that this gets the job done on Mac OS X (and generic enough to work on other Unixen as well):

find . -type f -ls | awk '{print $(NF-3), $(NF-2), $(NF-1), $NF}' | sort
  • 2
    Sadly, this prints out localized month names on my Croatian setup, making sort incorrect. – Ivan Vučica Apr 15 '13 at 20:19
  • user195696's answer works for the Croatian setup (and others). – Peter Mortensen Dec 27 '16 at 14:13

If your find selection is very simple, you might be able to do without it, and just use ls:

ls -1 *.cc # -r -t optional

Use:

find . -type f -mtime 0 -printf "[%TD %TI:%TM%Tp] %s %p\n" | sort -n | awk '{
    hum[1024**4]="TB"; hum[1024**3]="GB"; hum[1024**2]="MB"; hum[1024]="KB"; hum[0]="B";
    for (x=1024**4; x>=1024; x/=1024){
    if ($3>=x) { printf $1" "$2"\t%7.2f %s\t%s\n",$3/x,hum[x],$4;break }
    }}';

This command will sort files by modified date.

And display out like:

[12/05/13 03:10PM] 1.75 MB ./file.text
[12/06/13 11:52PM] 2.90 MB ./file2.mp4
[12/07/13 04:11PM] 4.88 MB ./file3.mp4
[12/07/13 09:17PM] 4.74 MB ./test.apk

I don't think find has any options to modify the output ordering. -mtime and -mmin will let you restrict the results to files that have been modified within a certain time window, but the output won't be sorted -- you'll have to do that yourself. GNU find has a -printf option that, among other things, will let you print the modification time of each file found (format strings %t or %Tk) ; that might help you sort the find output the way you wish.

I improved Akashs answer by making the script handling whitespace in filenames correctly:

find . -type f -mtime 0 -printf ";[%TD %TI:%TM%Tp];%s;%p\n" | sort -n | awk -F ";" '{
    hum[1024**4]="TB"; hum[1024**3]="GB"; hum[1024**2]="MB"; hum[1024]="KB"; hum[0]="B";
    for (x=1024**4; x>=1024; x/=1024){
    if ($3>=x) { printf $1" "$2"\t%7.2f %s\t%s\n",$3/x,hum[x],$4;break }
    }}';

If you want to order all PNG files by time in $PWD:

This simple one-liner gives all the flexibility of regexp on find and on ls.

find $PWD -name "*.png" -print0 | xargs -0 ls -laht | less

Try:

find '$dir' -name '$str'\* -print | xargs ls -tl | head -10

But it's also useful to filter data by -mmin/-mtime and -type.

You can use stat on BSD and Linux (not on POSIX) in this fashion:

$ stat -f "%m%t%N" /[the dir]/* | sort -rn | cut -f2-

If you want to limit the number:

$ stat -f "%m%t%N" /[the dir]/* | sort -rn | head -[the number] | cut -f2-

If you just want to get a full path of each item you can write down like this.

 find FIND_ROOT -maxdepth 1 -type f -printf "%T@ %p\n" | sort -nr | head -10 | cut -d ' ' -f 2

Where
-printf "%T@ %p\n" for giving sorting criteria (date),
'sort -nr' for sorting by date,
head -10 for listing top 10 results,
cut -d ' ' -f 2 for cutting the leading timestamp on each line.

I have a simple solution.

After cd to a directory, use

find . -iname "*" -ls

  • 1
    This doesn't sort by date modified. – DavidPostill Mar 25 '17 at 9:40

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