sortm man page

sortm — sort messages


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


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 inadvertant 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
`-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


Explore man page connections for sortm(1).

nmh 1.6 March 23, 2014