I have a router with a few hundred network interfaces (most of which virtual, naturally). That means that the output of

ip a

shows very many lines which makes management and analysis difficult. Items 1 to 255 are sorted by item number but from 256 the numbers are calculated mod 256 before sorting them which means they are interleaved (e.g. 256, 257, 1, 258, 2, ...):

# ip a s up
256: veth-99-02@br-vxlan-99-02: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether ab:cd:ef:99:88:77 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet scope global veth-99-02
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
257: vxlan-22-01: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1450 qdisc noqueue master br-vxlan-20-01 state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    link/ether ab:cd:ef:99:88:77 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
258: br-vxlan-22-01: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1450 qdisc noqueue state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether ab:cd:ef:99:88:77 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
2: eno1: <NO-CARRIER,BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP> mtu 1500 qdisc mq state DOWN group default qlen 1000
    link/ether ab:cd:ef:99:88:66 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff

Is there a way to correctly sort this output by number? (They are multi line entries so | sort -n won't do.)

Or, can I select to display numbers e.g. up to 42?

I tried to select by type (ip a s type ...) but that does not really work.

2 Answers 2


there is an option that outputs the information each in separate line -o:

-o, -oneline
output each record on a single line, replacing line feeds with the '\' character. This is convenient when you want to count records with wc(1) or to grep(1) the output.

so ip -o a s up |sort -n should do the job; you can then convert back those backslashes to newlines ip -o a s up |sort -n |tr '\\' '\n' if it was needed.

seems when using -o option, it drops some information (I don't know why); then you can use below awk preprocessing alternative before passing to the sort command:

ip a s up \
| awk '{ printf "%s" (NR>1 && /^[0-9]+:/?"\0":(NR>1?"\n":"")) $0 }' \
| sort -nz \
| tr '\0' '\n'

that is adding null character between each block of interfaces, and then using sort with -z sorts the input of null delimited records, and finally revert those null characters back to newlines with tr.


With GNU awk:

ip a s up | gawk '
  match($0, /^([0-9]+): /, m) {
    if (prev) ip[prev] = lines
    prev = m[1]
    lines = ""
  { lines = lines $0 RS }
  END {
    if (prev) ip[prev] = lines
    PROCINFO["sorted_in"] = "@ind_num_asc"
    for (num in ip) print ip[num]
  • The quoting of newlines is shell specific (and doesn't work in mine) but otherwise it works, thanks!
    – Ned64
    Aug 7, 2021 at 9:00
  • I don't understand: quoting of what newlines? Do you mean the multi-line string in single quotes? What shell can't do that? Aug 7, 2021 at 12:59
  • The tcsh does not handle it. Its syntax is C-oriented so you need to end a line in a backslash in order to carry on the command in the next line. There may be other shells that cannot handle the single quote handling of newlines but I don't know many.
    – Ned64
    Aug 7, 2021 at 18:09

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