I have two files with some names in them, when I ran cat file1 file2 | sort, the terminal shows the names sorted alphabetically, but when I run cat file1 file2 > file3 | sort I don't see the sorted output, why?

2 Answers 2


You have already redirected the output of file1 and file2 to the new file file3.

With this command cat file1 file2 > file3 | sort, sort after pipe.

This could be verified as below.

cat file1
cat file2

Now when I run the command as, cat file1 file2 > file3 | sort we could see that the contents of file1 and file2 are written to file3 but it is not sorted.

I believe what you are trying to achieve could be fairly easily accomplished as,

cat file1 file2 | sort > file3

However, it doesn't show the output in the console window.

If you need the output of two files after sorted to be written to a new file and at the same time the sorted output to be available in the console, you could do something like below.

cat file1 file2 | sort > file3; cat file3

However, it is good to make use of tee in this case. tee could be effectively used as,

cat file1 file2 | sort | tee file3

The above command basically concatenates 2 files and sorts them and displays the output in the console and at the same time writes the output of the pipe to the new file specified using the tee command.

As user casey points out, if you have zsh shell available on your system, you could use the below command as well.

sort <file1 <file2 | tee file3

POSIX defines the sort utility's purpose so:

Sort lines of all the named files together and write the result to the specified output.

You can sort two files into a concatenated output file like:

sort $opts file1 file2 >output_file

If you want to see the output on your shell's stdout and save the results in an output file then use tee:

sort $opts file[12] | tee output_file
  • you always have an unique way of approaching things. I like that :)
    – Ramesh
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 16:25
  • @Ramesh A lot of standard UNIX commands take files as arguments. People overuse cat so much that there are actually pages listing redundant usages of it. Here's one such page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_%28Unix%29#Useless_use_of_cat
    – gparent
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 20:17
  • @gparent, I think you have put the comment in the wrong place. And anyways, the point you refer to is a valid point and I have got rid of the useless use of cat. And I believe the zsh and tee approach in the answer should be effective and they do not overuse the cat.
    – Ramesh
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 20:21
  • Ah, on my end I still see usage of cat | sort rather than sort. My bad.
    – gparent
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 20:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .