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I have two identical folders with files, one on external exfat drive, the other one on local drive. When I grep -r folder on external drive it searches files in alphabetical order, yet if I do the same for local folder the search order seems random. Why is this happening and how to use alphabetical order on local drive too?

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It depends on file systems. Some file systems may have files "naturally" ordered and some have not (and in some cases ordering could be just a coincidence). Tried with 3 different file system (ext4, tmpfs, and vfat), and creating files named 3, 1, 2 in that order in a new directory yielded 3 different orders from grep -r ., none being the "natural" one.

When you use grep -r the file name if part of the output anyway so you can always sort the output (and perhaps cut the filename part in a later pipe operation).

Otherwise, AFAIK, ls and bash wildcards always yield files sorted according to the locale, so instead of grep -r try something like grep */*.

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