sortm - Man Page

sort nmh messages


sortm [-help] [-version] [+folder] [msgs] [-all | -noall] [-datefield field] [-textfield field] [-notextfield] [-limit days] [-nolimit] [-check | -nocheck] [-verbose | -noverbose]


sortm sorts the specified messages in the named folder according to the chronological order of the “Date:” field of each message.

If no messages are specified, the default is all messages in the folder. However, if no messages are specified and the -noall switch is enabled, then sortm reports that as an error and exits with non-zero status. -noall is most useful in the user's profile, to avoid inadvertent sorting of an entire folder.  The -all switch can then be used on the command line to disable it.  Of course, a message specification of all can be used in any case.

The -verbose switch directs sortm to tell the user the general actions that it is taking to place the folder in sorted order.

The -datefield field switch tells sortm the name of the field to use when making the date comparison.  If the user has a special field in each message, such as “BB-Posted:” or “Delivery-Date:”, then the -datefield switch can be used to direct sortm which field to examine.

The -textfield field switch causes sortm to sort messages by the specified text field.  All characters except letters and numbers are stripped and the resulting strings are sorted datefield-major, textfield-minor, using a case insensitive comparison.  If this field is “subject”, any leading "re:" is stripped off.

With -textfield field, if -limit days is specified, messages with the same textfields that are dated within `days' of each other appear together.  Specifying -nolimit makes the limit infinity. With -limit 0, the sort is instead simply textfield-major.

For example, to order a folder by date-major, grouping messages with the same subject on the same date together, use:

sortm -textfield subject +folder

sortm always issues a warning for each message that is missing a “Date:” field, has a “Date:” field that cannot be parsed, or has a format error in any header field.  With the -check switch, sortm inhibits all modifications to the folder if there are any such messages, and exits with non-zero status.  With the default of -nocheck, sortm sorts messages with a missing or invalid “Date:” field using their file modification times.

When ordering messages based on their dates, if they have the same dates, their original message order is preserved.


$HOME/.mh_profileThe user profile

Profile Components

Path:To determine the user's nmh directory
Current-Folder:To find the default current folder

See Also



`+folder' defaults to the current folder
`msgs' defaults to all without -noall, has no default with -noall
`-datefield' defaults to date


If a folder is given, it will become the current folder.  If the current message is moved, sortm will preserve its status as current.


Timezones used to be ignored when comparing dates: they aren't any more.

Messages which were in the folder, but not specified by `msgs', used to be moved to the end of the folder; now such messages are left untouched.

sortm sometimes did not preserve the message numbering in a folder (e.g., messages 1, 3, and 5, might have been renumbered to 1, 2, 3 after sorting).  This was a bug, and has been fixed.  To compress the message numbering in a folder, use “folder -pack” as always.


When sortm complains about a message which it can't temporally order, it complains about the message number prior to sorting. It should indicate what the message number will be after sorting.

Referenced By


2014-03-23 nmh-1.8