I have files like :

4-some file.mp4
1-another file.mp4
3-one more file.mp4
2-got another file.mp4

and so on.

Using the command line to play the files in vlc using vlc * plays them in unsorted order.

So I tried to play the files using vlc "vlc < <(ls * | sort -V)" does not work.

Trying to change the timestamp of the files using for i in "$(ls [!R]* | sort -V)"; do touch "$i";sleep 1; done is not working because "$(ls [!R]* | sort -V)" represents the complete list of files as one argument but I cannot remove the double quotes since files have spaces in their names.

  • is that the actual name of the file 4 - some file.mp4 Like with space in it?
    – 123
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 8:56
  • yes the actual names of the files is like 235-Learning Objectives.mp4 , 232-Exercise 24.mp4 i have named them like this
    – munish
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 8:58
  • The number of digits before the - differs?
    – phk
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 9:03
  • yes it goes from 1 to 420
    – munish
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


This should work

find . -name "*mp4" -print0 | sort -Vz | xargs -0 vlc
  • Why not -n for sort? This should also fix the problems with a differing amounts of digits.
    – phk
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 9:08
  • @phk Try it with n.
    – 123
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 9:09
  • @123 It works for me.
    – phk
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 9:16
  • 4
    @phk no, the -n won't work. The -V seems to be doing something clever. To use -n, you would need to define the field to sort on. For example: find . -name '*mp4' -printf '%f\0' | sort -t'-' -k 1.1n,1.3 -z. If it works for you, try it again with a file name like 100-foo.mp4. Or even 11-foo.
    – terdon
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 9:18
  • 1
    I think the path name (./) in the beginning if find output is what confuses sort -n. It seems to work if you tell it to skip the first letters: find . -name "*.mp4" -print0 | sort -z -k 1.3n | xargs -0 echo. Also plain simple ls -U | sort -n works.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 11:27

GNU ls also has -v natural sort of (version) numbers within text, like sort -V.

The spaces in the filename can be dealt with by removing the space from $IFS, (assuming you don't have newlines in file names):

$ IFS=$'\n' 
$ for x in $(ls -v) ; do echo "> $x" ; done
> 1-aa aa
> 2-cc cc
> 10-bb bb
> 21-dd dd
$ vlc $(ls -v)

(If you do that interactively, IFS will remain modified afterwards.)

For more information about IFS, see David Wheeler's writings about special characters in file names

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