I'm on a mac, and I'm afraid this command line problem has me stumped. At least I'm assuming the easiest way to do this would be through the CL.

I'd like to recursively search a directory tree for files within a specified set of extension (e.g. videos like .mov, .mkv, .flv,...). I'd then like to output a CSV format with the filename (path stripped off), and creation date on each line.

It sure seems like this should be doable from the command line, or at most a simple script, but I'm stumped.

  • What OS and what file system do you use? Not all filsystems are able to record the birth (creation) timestamp of files. You tagged with both zsh and bash, can you say which one is most relevant?
    – Kusalananda
    Apr 25, 2021 at 13:29
  • 1
    Filenames can contain commas (unusual but not forbidden), so CSV would need those fields quoted, or a different separator used. Parsing ls output is (rightly) deprecated because of varying formats, so you may want to involve find and stat --format= in this. Apr 25, 2021 at 15:39
  • Somebody other than the originating user added the macOS tag to this question. The question says "I'm on a mac", and this may mean that the user is on macOS, but given that Linux and other Unices also runs just fine on Apple hardware, it would be better if the original user mentioned this rather than somebody else making a guess.
    – Kusalananda
    Apr 25, 2021 at 20:32
  • As noted, between comments and editing of the OP, I am not certain I understand the situation or the desired result. Obtain a list of files with a given extension is the easier part (but do not try to parse ls, that has many pitfalls). Separating the file name from the path/directory name is also easy, most shells and scripting languages have ways to do that. Creation (birth) time is not so easy, as not all file systems make a record of this information. CSV output is also more difficult, as care needs to be done with filenames which may contain significant characters (',') may be present.
    – C. M.
    Apr 26, 2021 at 7:26

1 Answer 1


MacOS tracks a file's creation time, but not many tools can work with it., and it's often not meaningful anyway. For most purposes, the modification time works fine, and it is supported by far more tools.

Note that all my solutions assume that no file name contain any of the characters ,, " or newline. Otherwise the output is ambiguous; to represent these characters in a CSV file, extra care is necessary. If your file names may contain commas, you may want to put double quotes around the file names, or use another character such as ; as the column separator.

Zsh, modification time

To enumerate the desired files, use the glob operator ** to traverse subdirectories and (…|…) to match multiple extensions. Use the glob qualifier . to restrict matches to regular files, N to not error out if there are no matches, and optionally D to include dot files. Optionally, use the globbing flag i to match the extensions case-insensitively.

To obtain the desired data, use the zstat builtin from the zsh/stat module. To print the file name without the directory part, use the history modifier t tacked to a parameter expansion.

zmodload -F zsh/stat b:zstat
for x in **/*.(#i)(mov|mkv|flv)(.N); do
  TZ=UTC zstat -A a -F '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S' +mtime -- $x;
  print -lr -- "$x:t,$a[1]";

Zsh + /usr/bin/stat, creation time

With the system stat utility instead of zstat, you can list the file's creation time. Because stat has no option to strip off the directory part of the file name, I first switch to the directory containing the file.

for x in **/*.(#i)(mov|mkv|flv)(.N); do
  (cd $x:h && TZ=UTC stat -t '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S' -f %N,%SB -- $x:t)

GNU find, modification time

With GNU find, you can use the -printf primary to present the output in the desired format. Use %f for the file name without the directory part and %T followed by a time format for the modification time. To match multiple extensions, -regex with -regextype posix-extended is convenient.

TZ=UTC gfind -type f -regextype posix-extended -regex '.*\.(mov|mkv|flv)' \
      -printf '%f,%TY-%Tm-%Td %TH:%TM:%TS\n'

/usr/bin/find + /usr/bin/stat, creation time

With the system find, the search part is similar to GNU find except for using the -E option instead of the -regextype posix-extended primary, but you need to work out the listing with shell code. The action -execdir conveniently lets you obtain the file's basename.

TZ=UTC find -E . -regex '.*\.(mov|mkv|flv)' -type f \
     -execdir sh -c 'for x do stat -t "%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S" -f %N,%SB -- "$x"; done' sh {} \;
  • Mac /usr/bin/stat has %w and %W format sequences for "file birth" Apr 26, 2021 at 13:56
  • @glennjackman Not on macOS 11.2. Here it's %B. Apr 26, 2021 at 19:13

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