sort(1) User Commands sort(1)
sort - sort, merge, or sequence check text files
/usr/bin/sort [-bcdfimMnru] [-k keydef] [-o output] [-S kmem] [-t char] [-T directory] [ -y [kmem]] [-z recsz] [ +pos1 [-pos2]] [file...]
/usr/xpg4/bin/sort [-bcdfimMnru] [-k keydef] [-o output] [-S kmem] [-t char] [-T directory] [ -y [kmem]] [-z recsz] [ +pos1 [-pos2]]
The sort command sorts lines of all the named files together and writes the result on the standard output.
Comparisons are based on one or more sort keys extracted from each line of input. By default, there is one sort key, the entire input line.
Lines are ordered according to the collating sequence of the current locale.
The following options alter the default behavior:
-c Checks that the single input file is ordered as specified by the arguments and the collating sequence of the current
locale. The exit code is set and no output is produced unless the file is out of sort.
-c Same as /usr/bin/sort except no output is produced under any circumstances.
-m Merges only. The input files are assumed to be already sorted.
-o output Specifies the name of an output file to be used instead of the standard output. This file can be the same as one of the
-S kmem Specifies the maximum amount of swap-based memory used for sorting, in kilobytes (the default unit). kmem can also be spec-
ified directly as a number of bytes (b), kilobytes (k), megabytes (m), gigabytes (g), or terabytes (t); or as a percentage
(%) of the installed physical memory.
-T directory Specifies the directory in which to place temporary files.
-u Unique: suppresses all but one in each set of lines having equal keys. If used with the -c option, checks that there are no
lines with duplicate keys in addition to checking that the input file is sorted.
-y kmem (obsolete). This option was used to specify the amount of main memory initially used by sort. Its functionality is not
appropriate for a virtual memory system; memory usage for sort is now specified using the -S option.
-z recsz (obsolete). This option was used to prevent abnormal termination when lines longer than the system-dependent default buffer
size are encountered. Because sort automatically allocates buffers large enough to hold the longest line, this option has
The default sort order depends on the value of LC_COLLATE. If LC_COLLATE is set to C, sorting will be in ASCII order. If LC_COLLATE is set
to en_US, sorting is case insensitive except when the two strings are otherwise equal and one has an uppercase letter earlier than the
other. Other locales will have other sort orders.
The following options override the default ordering rules. When ordering options appear independent of any key field specifications, the
requested field ordering rules are applied globally to all sort keys. When attached to a specific key (see Sort Key Options), the specified
ordering options override all global ordering options for that key. In the obsolescent forms, if one or more of these options follows a
+pos1 option, it will affect only the key field specified by that preceding option.
-d ``Dictionary'' order: only letters, digits, and blanks (spaces and tabs) are significant in comparisons.
-f Folds lower-case letters into upper case.
-i Ignores non-printable characters.
-M Compares as months. The first three non-blank characters of the field are folded to upper case and compared. For example,
in English the sorting order is "JAN" < "FEB" < ... < "DEC". Invalid fields compare low to "JAN". The -M option implies the
-b option (see below).
-n Restricts the sort key to an initial numeric string, consisting of optional blank characters, optional minus sign, and zero
or more digits with an optional radix character and thousands separators (as defined in the current locale), which will be
sorted by arithmetic value. An empty digit string is treated as zero. Leading zeros and signs on zeros do not affect
-r Reverses the sense of comparisons.
Field Separator Options
The treatment of field separators can be altered using the following options:
-b Ignores leading blank characters when determining the starting and ending positions of a restricted sort key. If the -b
option is specified before the first sort key option, it is applied to all sort key options. Otherwise, the -b option can
be attached independently to each -k field_start, field_end, or +pos1 or -pos2 option-argument (see below).
-t char Use char as the field separator character. char is not considered to be part of a field (although it can be included in a
sort key). Each occurrence of char is significant (for example, <char><char> delimits an empty field). If -t is not speci-
fied, blank characters are used as default field separators; each maximal non-empty sequence of blank characters that fol-
lows a non-blank character is a field separator.
Sort Key Options
Sort keys can be specified using the options:
-k keydef The keydef argument is a restricted sort key field definition. The format of this definition is:
-k field_start [type] [,field_end [type] ]
field_start and field_end
define a key field restricted to a portion of the line.
is a modifier from the list of characters bdfiMnr. The b modifier behaves like the -b option, but applies only to the
field_start or field_end to which it is attached and characters within a field are counted from the first non-blank
character in the field. (This applies separately to first_character and last_character.) The other modifiers behave
like the corresponding options, but apply only to the key field to which they are attached. They have this effect if
specified with field_start, field_end or both. If any modifier is attached to a field_start or to a field_end, no
option applies to either.
When there are multiple key fields, later keys are compared only after all earlier keys compare equal. Except when the -u
option is specified, lines that otherwise compare equal are ordered as if none of the options -d, -f, -i, -n or -k were
present (but with -r still in effect, if it was specified) and with all bytes in the lines significant to the comparison.
defines a key field that begins at field_start and ends at field_end inclusive, unless field_start falls beyond the end of
the line or after field_end, in which case the key field is empty. A missing field_end means the last character of the
A field comprises a maximal sequence of non-separating characters and, in the absence of option -t, any preceding field
The field_start portion of the keydef option-argument has the form:
Fields and characters within fields are numbered starting with 1. field_number and first_character, interpreted as positive
decimal integers, specify the first character to be used as part of a sort key. If .first_character is omitted, it refers
to the first character of the field.
The field_end portion of the keydef option-argument has the form:
The field_number is as described above for field_start. last_character, interpreted as a non-negative decimal integer,
specifies the last character to be used as part of the sort key. If last_character evaluates to zero or .last_character is
omitted, it refers to the last character of the field specified by field_number.
If the -b option or b type modifier is in effect, characters within a field are counted from the first non-blank character
in the field. (This applies separately to first_character and last_character.)
[+pos1 [-pos2]] (obsolete). Provide functionality equivalent to the -kkeydef option.
pos1 and pos2 each have the form m.n optionally followed by one or more of the flags bdfiMnr. A starting position specified
by +m.n is interpreted to mean the n+1st character in the m+1st field. A missing .n means .0, indicating the first charac-
ter of the m+1st field. If the b flag is in effect n is counted from the first non-blank in the m+1st field; +m.0b refers
to the first non-blank character in the m+1st field.
A last position specified by -m.n is interpreted to mean the nth character (including separators) after the last character
of the mth field. A missing .n means .0, indicating the last character of the mth field. If the b flag is in effect n is
counted from the last leading blank in the m+1st field; -m.1b refers to the first non-blank in the m+1st field.
The fully specified +pos1 -pos2 form with type modifiers T and U:
is equivalent to:
undefined (z==0 & U contains b & -t is present)
-k w+1.x+1T,y.0U (z==0 otherwise)
-k w+1.x+1T,y+1.zU (z > 0)
Implementations support at least nine occurrences of the sort keys (the -k option and obsolescent +pos1 and -pos2) which
are significant in command line order. If no sort key is specified, a default sort key of the entire line is used.
The following operand is supported:
file A path name of a file to be sorted, merged or checked. If no file operands are specified, or if a file operand is -, the standard
input will be used.
See largefile(5) for the description of the behavior of sort when encountering files greater than or equal to 2 Gbyte ( 2**31 bytes).
In the following examples, first the preferred and then the obsolete way of specifying sort keys are given as an aid to understanding the
relationship between the two forms.
Example 1: Sorting with the second field as a sort key
Either of the following commands sorts the contents of infile with the second field as the sort key:
example% sort -k 2,2 infile
example% sort +1 -2 infile
Example 2: Sorting in reverse order
Either of the following commands sorts, in reverse order, the contents of infile1 and infile2, placing the output in outfile and using the
second character of the second field as the sort key (assuming that the first character of the second field is the field separator):
example% sort -r -o outfile -k 2.2,2.2 infile1 infile2
example% sort -r -o outfile +1.1 -1.2 infile1 infile2
Example 3: Sorting using a specified character in one of the files
Either of the following commands sorts the contents of infile1 and infile2 using the second non-blank character of the second field as the
example% sort -k 2.2b,2.2b infile1 infile2
example% sort +1.1b -1.2b infile1 infile2
Example 4: Sorting by numeric user ID
Either of the following commands prints the passwd(4) file (user database) sorted by the numeric user ID (the third colon-separated field):
example% sort -t : -k 3,3n /etc/passwd
example% sort -t : +2 -3n /etc/passwd
Example 5: Printing sorted lines excluding lines that duplicate a field
Either of the following commands prints the lines of the already sorted file infile, suppressing all but one occurrence of lines having the
same third field:
example% sort -um -k 3.1,3.0 infile
example% sort -um +2.0 -3.0 infile
Example 6: Sorting by host IP address
Either of the following commands prints the hosts(4) file (IPv4 hosts database), sorted by the numeric IP address (the first four numeric
example$ sort -t . -k 1,1n -k 2,2n -k 3,3n -k 4,4n /etc/hosts
example$ sort -t . +0 -1n +1 -2n +2 -3n +3 -4n /etc/hosts
Since '.' is both the field delimiter and, in many locales, the decimal separator, failure to specify both ends of the field will lead to
results where the second field is interpreted as a fractional portion of the first, and so forth.
See environ(5) for descriptions of the following environment variables that affect the execution of sort: LANG, LC_ALL, LC_COLLATE, LC_MES-
SAGES, and NLSPATH.
LC_CTYPE Determine the locale for the interpretation of sequences of bytes of text data as characters (for example, single- versus
multi-byte characters in arguments and input files) and the behavior of character classification for the -b, -d, -f, -i and
LC_NUMERIC Determine the locale for the definition of the radix character and thousands separator for the -n option.
The following exit values are returned:
0 All input files were output successfully, or -c was specified and the input file was correctly sorted.
1 Under the -c option, the file was not ordered as specified, or if the -c and -u options were both specified, two input lines were
found with equal keys.
>1 An error occurred.
/var/tmp/stm??? temporary files
See attributes(5) for descriptions of the following attributes:
| ATTRIBUTE TYPE | ATTRIBUTE VALUE |
|Availability |SUNWesu |
|CSI |Enabled |
| ATTRIBUTE TYPE | ATTRIBUTE VALUE |
|Availability |SUNWxcu4 |
|CSI |Enabled |
|Interface Stability |Standard |
comm(1), join(1), uniq(1), nl_langinfo(3C), strftime(3C), hosts(4), passwd(4), attributes(5), environ(5), largefile(5), standards(5)
Comments and exits with non-zero status for various trouble conditions (for example, when input lines are too long), and for disorders dis-
covered under the -c option.
When the last line of an input file is missing a new-line character, sort appends one, prints a warning message, and continues.
sort does not guarantee preservation of relative line ordering on equal keys.
One can tune sort performance for a specific scenario using the -S option. However, one should note in particular that sort has greater
knowledge of how to use a finite amount of memory for sorting than the virtual memory system. Thus, a sort invoked to request an extremely
large amount of memory via the -S option could perform extremely poorly.
As noted, certain of the field modifiers (such as -M and -d) cause the interpretation of input data to be done with reference to locale-
specific settings. The results of this interpretation can be unexpected if one's expectations are not aligned with the conventions estab-
lished by the locale. In the case of the month keys, sort does not attempt to compensate for "approximate" month abbreviations. The precise
month abbreviations from nl_langinfo(3C) or strftime(3C) are the only ones recognized. For printable or dictionary order, if these concepts
are not well-defined by the locale, an empty sort key may be the result, leading to the next key being the significant one for determining
the appropriate ordering.
SunOS 5.10 19 Nov 2001 sort(1)