Linux Tactic

Mastering the Sort Command in Linux: Essential Tips and Examples

Introduction to Sort Command in Linux

Sorting data is an essential task in computing. The ‘sort’ command, available in Linux, can sort a file’s content in Ascending or Descending order.

Sorting helps in organizing data, listing the content based on particular criteria. The sort command can help you sort data based on keywords, date, time, and other character attributes.

By analyzing keywords and character attributes, you can quickly sort out the required data. This article will cover the default rules and options in the ‘sort’ command and the importance of understanding them.

Default Rules in Sort Command

When sorting the content of a file, there are some unexpected outcomes you might face. The default rules applied when sorting can affect how the content appears in an organized manner.

The ‘sort’ command will organize data based on the first character or the starting character in each line, without considering the case status by default. Sorting, in this case, is based on the ASCII order.

For instance, when you sort the content “Apple, banana, cherry,” the result is Apple, banana, cherry. This is because uppercase alphabets come before lowercase alphabets as per the ASCII sequence.

However, if you apply the ‘-f’ option to sort, ignoring case sensitivity, the sort output will be different, giving you “Apple, banana, cherry.”

You can also modify the default settings to adjust the sorting order to meet your needs. With the ‘-r’ option, the order changes from ascending order to descending order.

You can also use the ‘-t’ option to change the delimiter based on which sorting is done, making it more flexible.

Encoding and its effect on sort command

Encoding determines the character set of the file and affects how the text is displayed when sorting. The sort command relies on the system’s locale to identify the characters’ encoding.

Therefore, if the locale settings are inconsistent with the encoding format of the file, then the sorting might give irregular outputs.

When sorting a file containing non-ASCII characters, the ‘LC_ALL=POSIX’ option can be used to set the locale to POSIX, which sets the system to ASCII mode.

ASCII will sort the characters based on their ASCII value. The option ‘-d’ can also be used to compare the lines with special characters based on their actual values.


In conclusion, the ‘sort’ command in Linux is an effective tool for organizing data. Understanding the default rules and options that come with the command will help you to use it effectively and overcome any unforeseen challenges that may arise while sorting data.

By knowing how encoding affects sorting, you can ensure that the output is in the expected format. With the ability to adjust the sorting criteria based on options, you can extract and organize the data successfully.

Examples of Sort Command

Sorting content in the Linux operating system can be a daunting task without the right tool. The ‘sort’ command in Linux is a powerful tool that helps users to sort their file contents in a sorted format.

Sorting data can save time and be more efficient. The ‘sort’ command offers users several options and features to customize the sorting experience.

Sorting in Alphabetical order

Sorting in alphabetical order is one of the most common and straightforward sorting formats. By default, the ‘sort’ command sorts files in ascending order based on the ASCII code.

However, users can alter the sorting preference with the ‘-r’ option to sort in the reverse order.

For instance, to sort a text file named ‘names.txt’ in alphabetical order, you simply need to enter the command ‘sort names.txt’ into the terminal.

Sorting by numerical value

The ‘sort’ command can also sort numerical values in ascending or descending order. It sorts based on the numeric value in each line by default.

The ‘-n’ option is useful when sorting data where numbers have varying lengths. For instance, to sort files based on numerical values, enter the command ‘sort -n numbers.txt’ into the terminal.

The output will be sorted in ascending order.

Sorting in Reverse Order

Sometimes, you might want to sort file contents in descending order. The ‘sort’ command can achieve this by using the ‘-r’ option.

The reverse option can be useful when you want to see the most significant data first. For example, to sort a file named ‘ages.txt’ in descending order, you enter the command ‘sort -r ages.txt’ into the terminal.

Random Sorting

The ‘sort’ command can be used to randomize the order of file contents, thereby, enhancing the data’s security. Randomizing the sorting order becomes more complex as the file size grows.

a better option would be to use the ‘-R’ option. For instance, to sort the contents of a file named ’employees.txt’ in random order, you enter the command ‘sort -R employees.txt’ into the terminal.

Sorting by Months

The ‘sort’ command can also sort files based on the months of the year. The ‘-M’ option can sort files based on the months that appear in each line.

For example, to sort a file named ‘months.txt’ by month, enter the command ‘sort -M months.txt’ into the terminal.

Saving Sorted Results to Another File

If you intend to save the sorted results to a different file altogether, you may use the ‘>’ operator to indicate the destination file. This command saves the sorted contents of file ‘names.txt’ to a file named ‘sorted_names.txt’.

sort names.txt > sorted_names.txt

Sorting Specific Column

If you have a file containing data in columns, you might want to sort only specific columns. In such a case, you can use the ‘-k’ option which allows you to specify the start and end position of the column.

For example, to sort the second column of a file named ‘products.txt,’ enter the command ‘sort -k 2,2 products.txt’ into the terminal.

Removing Duplicates While Sorting

Sometimes, file content may contain duplicates. The ‘sort’ command can be used to remove duplicates during sorting.

To do this, you can use the ‘-u’ option. For example, to sort ‘names.txt,’ remove duplicates and save the sorted result to ‘unique_names.txt,’ enter the command ‘sort -u names.txt > unique_names.txt’.

Ignoring Cases while Sorting

Ignoring cases is one of the most significant features of the ‘sort’ command. When sorting files which contain upper and lowercase characters, the -f option can be used to sort them in case insensitive order.

For instance, to sort a file named ‘Letters.txt’ without considering the character’s case, enter the command ‘sort -f Letters.txt’ into the terminal.

Sorting by Human Numeric Values

The ‘sort’ command can also sort files based on human-readable values. The ‘-h’ option considers numeric values with their unit suffix, such as ‘k’ and ‘M,’ for sorting purposes.

‘-h’ is useful for sorting file sizes or data rates. For example, to sort ‘traffic.txt’ by human-readable numeric value, enter the command ‘sort -h traffic.txt’ into the terminal.

Importance of Understanding and Using Sort Command

In conclusion, understanding and using the ‘sort’ command can significantly enhance your data organization and sorting experience. Sorting files can be vital in several data processing tasks.

With its many options, the ‘sort’ command makes it effortless to sort files the way you want. Reducing the time spent on organizing and routing data can improve productivity.

Take some time to understand and apply these examples to utilize the ‘sort’ command more effectively. In conclusion, the ‘sort’ command in Linux is a powerful tool that helps users sort their files quickly and efficiently.

This article has covered various examples of using the ‘sort’ command, such as sorting in alphabetical and numeric order, randomizing sorting, removing duplicates while sorting, and sorting by specific column and month. Understanding and utilizing these options offered by the ‘sort’ command can significantly enhance data organization and data processing tasks.

By applying these examples, users can save time and improve productivity. Proper knowledge and utilization of the ‘sort’ command is essential for Linux users to sort their files effectively and efficiently.

Popular Posts