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sort: Sort text files

sort sorts, merges, or compares all the lines from the given files, or standard input if none are given or for a file of `-'. By default, sort writes the results to standard output. Synopsis:

sort [option]... [file]...

sort has three modes of operation: sort (the default), merge, and check for sortedness. The following options change the operation mode:

Check whether the given files are already sorted: if they are not all sorted, print an error message and exit with a status of 1. Otherwise, exit successfully.
Merge the given files by sorting them as a group. Each input file must always be individually sorted. It always works to sort instead of merge; merging is provided because it is faster, in the case where it works.

A pair of lines is compared as follows: if any key fields have been specified, sort compares each pair of fields, in the order specified on the command line, according to the associated ordering options, until a difference is found or no fields are left.

If any of the global options `Mbdfinr' are given but no key fields are specified, sort compares the entire lines according to the global options.

Finally, as a last resort when all keys compare equal (or if no ordering options were specified at all), sort compares the lines byte by byte in machine collating sequence. The last resort comparison honors the `-r' global option. The `-s' (stable) option disables this last-resort comparison so that lines in which all fields compare equal are left in their original relative order. If no fields or global options are specified, `-s' has no effect.

GNU sort (as specified for all GNU utilities) has no limits on input line length or restrictions on bytes allowed within lines. In addition, if the final byte of an input file is not a newline, GNU sort silently supplies one.

Upon any error, sort exits with a status of `2'.

If the environment variable TMPDIR is set, sort uses its value as the directory for temporary files instead of `/tmp'. The `-T tempdir' option in turn overrides the environment variable.

The following options affect the ordering of output lines. They may be specified globally or as part of a specific key field. If no key fields are specified, global options apply to comparison of entire lines; otherwise the global options are inherited by key fields that do not specify any special options of their own.

Ignore leading blanks when finding sort keys in each line.
Sort in phone directory order: ignore all characters except letters, digits and blanks when sorting.
Fold lowercase characters into the equivalent uppercase characters when sorting so that, for example, `b' and `B' sort as equal.
Sort numerically, but use strtod(3) to arrive at the numeric values. This allows floating point numbers to be specified in scientific notation, like 1.0e-34 and 10e100. Use this option only if there is no alternative; it is much slower than `-n' and numbers with too many significant digits will be compared as if they had been truncated. In addition, numbers outside the range of representable double precision floating point numbers are treated as if they were zeroes; overflow and underflow are not reported.
Ignore characters outside the printable ASCII range 040-0176 octal (inclusive) when sorting.
An initial string, consisting of any amount of whitespace, followed by three letters abbreviating a month name, is folded to UPPER case and compared in the order `JAN' < `FEB' < ... < `DEC'. Invalid names compare low to valid names.
Sort numerically: the number begins each line; specifically, it consists of optional whitespace, an optional `-' sign, and zero or more digits, optionally followed by a decimal point and zero or more digits. sort -n uses what might be considered an unconventional method to compare strings representing floating point numbers. Rather than first converting each string to the C double type and then comparing those values, sort aligns the decimal points in the two strings and compares the strings a character at a time. One benefit of using this approach is its speed. In practice this is much more efficient than performing the two corresponding string-to-double (or even string-to-integer) conversions and then comparing doubles. In addition, there is no corresponding loss of precision. Converting each string to double before comparison would limit precision to about 16 digits on most systems. Neither a leading `+' nor exponential notation is recognized. To compare such strings numerically, use the `-g' option.
Reverse the result of comparison, so that lines with greater key values appear earlier in the output instead of later.

Other options are:

`-o output-file'
Write output to output-file instead of standard output. If output-file is one of the input files, sort copies it to a temporary file before sorting and writing the output to output-file.
`-t separator'
Use character separator as the field separator when finding the sort keys in each line. By default, fields are separated by the empty string between a non-whitespace character and a whitespace character. That is, given the input line ` foo bar', sort breaks it into fields ` foo' and ` bar'. The field separator is not considered to be part of either the field preceding or the field following.
For the default case or the `-m' option, only output the first of a sequence of lines that compare equal. For the `-c' option, check that no pair of consecutive lines compares equal.
`-k pos1[,pos2]'
The recommended, POSIX, option for specifying a sort field. The field consists of the line between pos1 and pos2 (or the end of the line, if pos2 is omitted), inclusive. Fields and character positions are numbered starting with 1. See below.
Treat the input as a set of lines, each terminated by a zero byte (ASCII NUL (Null) character) instead of a ASCII LF (Line Feed.) This option can be useful in conjunction with `perl -0' or `find -print0' and `xargs -0' which do the same in order to reliably handle arbitrary pathnames (even those which contain Line Feed characters.)
The obsolete, traditional option for specifying a sort field. The field consists of the line between pos1 and up to but not including pos2 (or the end of the line if pos2 is omitted). Fields and character positions are numbered starting with 0. See below.

In addition, when GNU sort is invoked with exactly one argument, options `--help' and `--version' are recognized. See section Common options.

Historical (BSD and System V) implementations of sort have differed in their interpretation of some options, particularly `-b', `-f', and `-n'. GNU sort follows the POSIX behavior, which is usually (but not always!) like the System V behavior. According to POSIX, `-n' no longer implies `-b'. For consistency, `-M' has been changed in the same way. This may affect the meaning of character positions in field specifications in obscure cases. The only fix is to add an explicit `-b'.

A position in a sort field specified with the `-k' or `+' option has the form `f.c', where f is the number of the field to use and c is the number of the first character from the beginning of the field (for `+pos') or from the end of the previous field (for `-pos'). If the `.c' is omitted, it is taken to be the first character in the field. If the `-b' option was specified, the `.c' part of a field specification is counted from the first nonblank character of the field (for `+pos') or from the first nonblank character following the previous field (for `-pos').

A sort key option may also have any of the option letters `Mbdfinr' appended to it, in which case the global ordering options are not used for that particular field. The `-b' option may be independently attached to either or both of the `+pos' and `-pos' parts of a field specification, and if it is inherited from the global options it will be attached to both. Keys may span multiple fields.

Here are some examples to illustrate various combinations of options. In them, the POSIX `-k' option is used to specify sort keys rather than the obsolete `+pos1-pos2' syntax.

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