Linux – How to recursively find and list the latest modified files in a directory with subdirectories and times


  • Operating system: Linux

  • Filesystem type: ext3

  • Preferred solution: Bash (script/one-liner), Ruby, or Python

I have several directories with several subdirectories and files in them. I need to make a list of all these directories that is constructed in a way such that every first-level directory is listed next to the date and time of the latest created/modified file within it.

To clarify, if I touch a file or modify its contents a few subdirectory levels down, that timestamp should be displayed next to the first-level directory name. Say I have a directory structured like this:


and I modify the contents of the file example.txt, I need that time displayed next to the first-level directory alfa in human readable form, not epoch. I've tried some things using find, xargs, sort and the like, but I can't get around the problem that the filesystem timestamp of 'alfa' doesn't change when I create/modify files a few levels down.

Best Solution

Try this one:

find $1 -type f -exec stat --format '%Y :%y %n' "{}" \; | sort -nr | cut -d: -f2- | head

Execute it with the path to the directory where it should start scanning recursively (it supports filenames with spaces).

If there are lots of files it may take a while before it returns anything. Performance can be improved if we use xargs instead:

find $1 -type f -print0 | xargs -0 stat --format '%Y :%y %n' | sort -nr | cut -d: -f2- | head

which is a bit faster.