How to Find the Newest File in a Directory on Linux

Managing files in a Linux environment often requires quick access to the most recent files. Whether you are automating tasks or simply organizing your data, knowing how to find the newest file in a directory can be a valuable skill. Let’s explore a few straightforward methods to accomplish this using command-line tools.

Method 1: Using ls and head

The ls command in Linux lists directory contents. By combining it with options that sort by modification time (-t for sorting by time) and limit output (-1 for single column output), we can easily retrieve the newest file:

ls -1t | head -n 1

Here’s a breakdown of what each part of the command does:

  • ls -1t: Lists all files (-1 ensures single-column output) sorted by time (-t sorts by modification time, newest first).
  • head -n 1: Takes the first line of the output from ls -1t, which corresponds to the newest file.

This method is simple and effective for most use cases.

Method 2: Using find with -printf option

The find command is versatile and allows for more complex file searches. We can use it in combination with the -printf option to print file details, including modification time, and then sort based on this information:

find . -type f -printf '%T@ %p\n' | sort -n | tail -n 1 | cut -d' ' -f2-


  • find . -type f -printf '%T@ %p\n': Finds all files (-type f) in the current directory (.) and prints their modification time in seconds since epoch (%T@) along with the file path (%p).
  • sort -n: Sorts the output numerically based on modification time (%T@).
  • tail -n 1: Retrieves the last line of the sorted output, which corresponds to the newest file.
  • cut -d' ' -f2-: Cuts the output to retrieve only the file path, excluding the modification time.

This method is more flexible and can be adapted for directories with a large number of files.

Finding the most recent file in a directory on Linux can be achieved using simple command-line tools like ls, find, sort, head, and tail. Depending on your specific needs, you can choose between a straightforward approach (ls -t) or a more customizable method (find with -printf).

By mastering these techniques, you can streamline file management tasks, automate processes, and improve your overall efficiency when working with files on Linux systems.

Next time you need to quickly access the newest file in a directory, remember these methods to save time and effort. Happy file hunting!