I need to get the modification date of a file so that I can set it on other files using touch -m.

stat or perl -le 'print((stat shift)[9])' Didn't return what I wanted. I think that you are supposed to use - and + but I'm not sure how to use it correctly.

I though that using the -t I though it could set it another way, here I tried to set it to 2013 July the 3rd.

touch -t  20130703

But that didn't change it the way I want either. So back to the question, how do I copy another files attributes so that I can set them with touch -m?

  • Why? If you want to "copy another files attributes," why not use touch -r – John1024 Jan 21 '15 at 22:10
  • Yeah, I saw that but thats not what I want to do. I want to keep the string and maybe edit a folder and then change back the modification date etc. – DisplayName Jan 21 '15 at 22:16

You may convert the time returned by stat or perl to the format you want with the command date (assuming you have GNU coreutils installed):

# Convert UNIX time returned by perl to year+month+day
$ date -d @$(perl -le 'print((stat shift)[9])' FILENAME) +%Y%m%d

# Convert formatted time returned by GNU stat to year+month+day
$ date -d "$(stat -c %y FILENAME)" +%Y%m%d

date itself can give you the modification time for files directly too:

$ date -r FILENAME +%Y%m%d

For details, see the man page for GNU date (man date).

  • 1
    Note that stat -c is specific to GNU stat. Most other stat implementations (including OS/X which the OP mentions) can specify the date format. GNU find's -printf can also specify the date format. – Stéphane Chazelas Jan 21 '15 at 23:32
stat -f %m -t %Y%m%d%H%M.%S myfile

This prints the timestamp in the format required for touch -t.

Beware that the timestamp is expressed in the local timezone, which could be awkward to port files between timezones or for timestamps during the repeated hour of the summer-to-winter switch in timezones with DST. To avoid timezone trouble, use the UTC timestamp:

timestamp=$(TZ=UTC stat -f %m -t %Y%m%d%H%M.%S myfile)
TZ=UTC touch -t "$timestamp" myotherfile

Note that this applied to the BSD stat utility such as shipped with OSX, not to the GNU or BusyBox stat utilities such as found on Linux.

  • Note that to avoid issues around daylight saving switches, it's better to fix TZ to UTC0 for both touch and stat. – Stéphane Chazelas Jan 21 '15 at 23:42

Doing "ls -otr --time-style=+%Y%m%d%H%M.%S" will get the date in the proper format, though with a bunch of other info that's easily edited out.

This is handy when assigned to an alias, and the output redirected to a file.

  • The OP tagged this OSX. --time-style is a feature of GNU coreutil's ls. – jordanm Jan 22 '15 at 3:33

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