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I download lots of files in ~/Downloads/ folder in Ubuntu Linux and OS X desktop. How do I show last downloaded file first using the ls command? How do I sort the output of ls command by last modified date?

You need to pass the -t option to the ls command. The -t option sort by time modified i.e. most recently modified first before sorting the operands by lexicographical order.
Tutorial details
Difficulty level Easy
Root privileges No
Requirements None
Est. reading time 2 minutes
In other words, last downloaded file can be displayed using the following command. Open the Terminal application and type the following command.
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Syntax

The syntax is:
ls -t
ls -lt | less
ls -lt ~/Downloads/ | less

Sample outputs:

total 60754328
drwxr-xr-x  3 vivek  staff         102 Aug 25 13:18 ImageOptim.app
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff   301746331 Aug 25 01:25 data-db2-sample.rar
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff     1727030 Aug 25 01:14 testdisk-6.14.mac_intel.tar.tar.bz2
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff       23850 Aug 24 22:36 english-68.zip
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff       72488 Aug 24 22:05 36363537dkgpd.pdf
drwxr-xr-x@ 3 vivek  staff         170 Aug 24 19:58 backups
drwxr-xr-x@ 4 vivek  staff         306 Aug 24 19:56 tarballs
-rw-------@ 1 vivek  staff       39748 Aug 24 13:22 Account-xyz.pdf
-rw-------@ 1 vivek  staff       35583 Aug 24 13:21 Portfolio-Update-FY13-14.pdf
-rw-------@ 1 vivek  staff      141695 Aug 24 01:26 13290.pdf
drwxr-xr-x@ 2 vivek  staff         136 Aug 24 00:32 hd-video-raw-files
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff  1359349025 Aug 23 21:04 youtube-sample.mp4
drwxr-xr-x@ 2 vivek  staff         170 Aug 23 21:03 delme
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff      120587 Aug 23 19:00 Screenshot-System-Monitor.png
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff       23301 Aug 22 13:21 sad-tux.png
....
.. 
....

Pass the -r option to reverse the order of the sort to get reverse lexicographical order or the oldest entries first (or largest files last, if combined with sort by size), enter:
ls -tr
ls -ltr | less
ls -ltr ~/Downloads/ | less

Sample outputs:

total 60754328
-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 vivek  staff      115262 Jan  1  1970 P4.pdf
-rw-r--r--  1 vivek  staff      135734 Sep 16  2011 game.idx
-rw-r--r--  1 vivek  staff       51111 Sep 16  2011 game.English.srt
-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 vivek  staff      331201 Sep  6  2012 Portfolio_Recommendations_Comprehensive_Sep12.pdf
-rw-r--r--  1 vivek  staff   301746245 Sep 25  2012 hp-ux-to-rhel6-guide.pdf
-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 vivek  staff       13350 Mar 13 16:44 DC-location-Towns.xlsx
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff   574423040 Jun 10 16:33 data-center-opening.avi
-rw-r--r--@ 1 vivek  staff     2375468 Jun 15 05:04 backups.rar
-rw-r--r--  1 vivek  staff     2631709 Jun 15 05:07 last-good-know-backups.pdf
....
..

Sort by modification time, newest first and other options

Make sure you pass the -A (list all entries except for . and ..) or -a (include directory entries whose names begin with a dot) option to see hidden files:
ls -Altr ~/Downloads/ | less
ls -alt ~/Downloads/ | less

The following option turned on human readable output:
$ ls -halt
$ ls -halt | more

Sample outputs:

Fig.01: Print human readable sizes when used with the -l/-s option

Fig.01: Print human readable sizes when used with the -l/-s option

Recommended readings
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1 comment… add one
  • Folkert Aug 30, 2013 @ 8:14

    Just use

    ls -t

    or (equivalently)

    ls –sort=time

    This will the most recently modified files (and other file system objects) first. You may want to add a -l switch for details on the files. Pipe the output through `tac` to reverse the order. Select the newest (oldest) files by piping the output through `head`. Example:

    ls -lt | head -n 3 # displays the three most recently modified files.

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