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.

Closure:

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.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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Let’s Use ‘ls’ To Sort Files By Time

Today’s article is going to tell you how to sort files by time while using the ‘ls’ command in the terminal. I find sorting by time is often easiest when working with a lot of files that have less-than-helpful filenames. For example, it’s nice to sort by time when I’m dealing with screenshots, knowing that I took a new screenshot that’s helpfully named something like ‘kgiii@kgiii-msi: ~-Downloads_032.png’.

It’s usually easy enough to graphically sort files by time and date. In your file manager, you might need to select list view, add the column, and then select at least one of the time options. Different GUI file managers will have different options, and may not include all possible time values stored in the file’s meta information. Speaking of screenshots, it might look something like this:

sort by modification time
In this case, arranging items by ‘modification time’ is an available option.

The file’s metadata has several time options and we can sort by those with the ‘ls’ command while in the terminal. The output of ‘ls’ is usually sorted alphabetically. It’s not terribly difficult and will help you along your Linux trails. I find it useful when picking among a large number of files.

Parsing the output of the ‘ls’ command is generally considered a bad idea. We won’t really be doing that, but this is a good time to mention it. If you don’t know why, click this link. They explain it better than I can. That’ll save some time!

Today we will learn to use ‘ls’ to sort files by a few time value stored in the file’s meta information. It’s an easy enough process and a handy tool for your growing toolbox of Linux commands.

Sort Files By Time:

Obviously, you’ll need an open terminal. You can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

Once you have it open, the /home/user directory is a fine choice. We won’t need to change directories – but you can. If you have a lot of screenshots saved in ~/Pictures, then you may find that directory more informative. Either way, let’s start with the basics:

This first one will show the last time the file was modified – which may be the creation date and time. That command is (the -l used in each command means use the long listing output):

You can sort by access time, sorting by the last time the file was opened. (Yes, this is all part of a file’s metadata.) To do that, you just use:

With that done, we have one more. This one shows the last time the metadata was changed for the files listed. If you were to use touch to change the last modified time, this would show when you did that. Make sense?

And there you have it! If you want to show the output in reverse order, you just use a -r flag and you can still use the -a flag to show hidden files, should you need to do something like that.

Closure:

That’s about it. You can now sort files by time. It’s a pretty handy tool and one you may find yourself using often. As mentioned above, I find it handiest (with my particular uses) when working with all the screenshots I take. I take a whole lot of screenshots. I assume I take more screenshots than most folks.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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