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I have a bunch of random folders, some of them are hidden (beginning with a period). I want to list all of them, sorted by their sizes.

I have something on the lines of this in mind:

ls -d -1 -a */ | xargs du -s | sort

But the ls ... part of it doesn't show hidden files. I know some questions have been asked before on the same topic, but the answers never include a way to include hidden files. Or if it does, it uses the long format, hence making the output incompatible with the rest of the command.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Parsing the output of ls is always problematic. You should always use a different tool if you mean to process the output automatically.

In your particular case, your command was failing -- not because of some missing or incompatible argument to ls -- but because of the glob you were sending it. You were asking ls to list all results including hidden ones with -a, but then you were promptly asking it to only list things that matched the */ glob pattern which does not match things beginning with. and anything ls might have done was restricted to things that matched the glob. You could have used .*/ as a second glob to match hidden directories as well, or you could have left the glob off entirely and just let ls do the work. However, you don't even need ls for this if you have a glob to match.

One solution would be to skip the ls entirely and just use shell globing:*

$ du -s */ .*/ | sort -n

Another way which might be overkill for this example but is very powerful in more complex situations would be to use find:*

$ find ./ -type d -maxdepth 1 -exec du -s {} + | sort -n


  • find ./ starts a find operation on the current directory. You could use another path if you like.
  • -type d finds only things that are directories
  • -maxdepth 1 tells it only to find directories in the current directory, not to recurse down to sub-directories.
  • -exec [command] [arguments] {} + works much like xargs, but find gets to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to quoting and escaping names. The {} bit gets replaced with the results from the find.
  • du -s you know

* Note that I used the -n operator for sort to get a numeric sorting which is more useful in than alphabetic in this case.

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Are you saying that du -s */ .*/ should list the sizes of hidden directories? I'm in ~/ and issuing the command above (both with and without the pipe to sort afterward), and only get non-hidden directories, along with ./ included in the results (but none of the other ~100 directories starting with . that ls -a shows). –  Hendy Apr 26 '14 at 18:01
@Hendy Yes it should (and does for me). It's possible there are options that need to be set (or unset) for it to work is your shell. What shell are you actually using and what version? echo $SHELL ; $SHELL --version –  Caleb Apr 26 '14 at 18:20
Arch Linux system that's updated pretty regularly. echo $SHELL: /bin/bash, $SHELL --version: GNU bash, version 4.3.11(1)-release (x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu). Using urxvt terminal; replicated with xterm as well (not that it should matter). If I do du -s .*/ on it's own, it only picks up ./ and ../. –  Hendy Apr 27 '14 at 19:27
Interestingly, du -s .*/* will pick up all second level contents of hidden directories. So I get itemized contents like .cache/{Flash_Player, chromium, dconf, Thunar, etc.}. Leaving off the trailing * doesn't get the top level .cache dir for some reason! –  Hendy Apr 27 '14 at 19:28
@Hendy That would indicate you don't have extended glob pattern matching turned on.The terminal would have no effect on this, it is a shell and shell glob expansion options thing. I use ZSH not Bash but I think you can enable the feature in bash with shopt -s extglob. –  Caleb Apr 27 '14 at 20:01

In zsh, use the D glob qualifier to include dot files in a filename pattern:

du -s -- *(D) | sort -k1n

In bash, set the dotglob option to make * match dot files:

shopt -s dotglob
du -s -- * | sort -k1n

In ksh, set FIGNORE to .?(.) to ignore only . and .. and not other dot files.

du -- * | sort -k1n

See also How do you move all files (including hidden) in a directory to another?.

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