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sort is a command to sort lines of data.

GNU Syntax Examples

In OS X, this is gsort.

Randomly sort a file in place

By giving the -o the same output file as the input file we can shuffle in-place without errors. Trying this same thing using a pipe or a redirect will usually cause an empty file.

Beware that this will put duplicate lines right next to each other. If you need better file content shuffling use shuf.

sort -o foo -R foo

Sort by two fields, first dictionary, second reverse numeric

When sorting by multiple fields, it's important to specify the start and end of where you want the sort to occur. If you do not do this, you may get too short of a comparison, or too long of a comparison. Check the output of --debug if you don't get the right sort order.

# -k defines the sort key as starting position, sort style, ending position
# -r is included in the second key to reverse numeric sort

gsort -k1d,1 -k2nr,2

Sort IP Addresses by first octet then last octet, showing which fields are sorted

ip neigh show | sort -k1,1n -k4,4n -t. --debug

Console example:

$ ip neigh show | sort -k1,1n -k4,4n -t. --debug
sort: using ‘en_US.UTF-8’ sorting rules dev eth0 lladdr 52:54:00:12:35:02 REACHABLE
____________________________________________________ dev eth0 lladdr 52:54:00:12:35:03 STALE
________________________________________________ dev eth1 lladdr 08:00:27:7a:50:42 STALE
____________________________________________________ dev eth1 lladdr 08:00:27:56:64:2f STALE

BSD Syntax Examples

GNU sort and BSD sort behave differently, which is mostly lame.

Sort by the third column

sort -k 3 filename

Sort dates by the day

This example shows how to sort dates in ISO Year format by date. (EG: 2017-01-19). Assumes use of bash 4 to generate the example dates.

## -n for numeric sort
## -k3 for column 3
## -t- to use - as a column delimiter

for X in {2016..2017}-{01..12..03}-{01..19..06} ; do echo ${X} ; done |

sort -n -k3 -t-

Sort the /etc/passwd by UID

Also works on /etc/group file and GID

sort -n -t: -k 3 /etc/passwd

Scan for airport and sort by columns

Print out two rows signifying column numbers, which makes it easier to find which columns you want to sort by, then run a command and sort by column numbers. This assumes you're on macOS.

perl -e '
foreach ( 1 .. 9 ) {
    foreach ( 1 .. 9 ) { print " "; }
    print $_;
print "\n";
foreach ( 1 .. 9 ) {
    foreach ( 1 .. 9, 0 ) { print $_; }
print "\n";' ; \
airport --scan | sort -k 1.52,1.54