Sort Files By Size (In The Terminal)

In today’s article, we’re going to cover something nice and simple; how to sort files by size in the terminal. This is something everyone should know, because sorting files is often a prerequisite to understanding and managing said files.

Besides, not all the articles have to be something complicated. The tagline for Linux-Tips is “Getting you up to speed!” It’s supposed to be aimed squarely at new Linux users. The problem is, many of those articles are boring to write and the 2nd largest group of readers aren’t really beginners. 

So, yeah…

Today, we’ll have a nice, basic article that tells you how to sort files by size – in the terminal. In fact, some of the more regular users may not have these commands memorized. Now’s a good time to learn ’em.

We’ll be using the ‘ls’ command for this. It is said that you shouldn’t parse the output of ‘ls’ for anything important. It’s bad practice for reasons I think I’ve touched on before. However, you can safely use ‘ls’ for this process as it’s just sorting the files by size and doing so by itself.

For those that don’t know, ‘ls’ has a ton of options. It’s a tool used to show the contents of a directory. You can use man ls to get more information about the command. We’ve previously covered:

Let’s Use ‘ls’ To Sort Files By Time

Well, today we’ll use ‘ls’ to …

Sort Files By Size:

This article requires an open terminal, like many other articles on this site. If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

You might just as well stay right there in your default location – which should be your home directory. Feel free to switch to a new directory, but you really won’t need to. It’s an easy command. 

First, we’ll show the output sorted to show the largest files first:

Of course, you can reverse that sort order and show the smallest files first. To do that, you just add -r (reverse) to your flags, like so:

That command should show you files listed with the smallest ones first and that’s really all there is to this article. Well, there’s the closure section – but nobody reads those.


And, well, this particular closure section won’t have anything truly interesting or different in it. After all, this is just a simple article that shows you how to sort files by size. ‘Snot that much more to it. ‘Snot that much more that I can add.

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Author: KGIII

Retired mathematician, residing in the mountains of Maine. I may be old and wise, but I am not infallible. Please point out any errors. And, as always, thanks again for reading.

One thought on “Sort Files By Size (In The Terminal)”

  1. -S (uppercase), which shows data size, is different than -s (lowercase), which shows block allocation. Similar, but different view of storage utilization.

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