tsort - Linux


The tsort command in Linux stands for “topological sort” and is primarily used to perform a topological sorting of items from a given input. It reads pairs of items from standard input or files and prints a linear ordering that conforms to the partial ordering specified by those pairs. This command is useful in scenarios like scheduling, where dependencies exist among tasks.


The basic syntax of tsort is:

tsort [OPTION]... [FILE]
  • FILE specifies the name of the file to read from; if no file is provided or if - is given, tsort reads from standard input.


tsort does not have a wide range of options. The primary options are:

  • --help: Display a help message and exit.
  • --version: Output version information and exit.

These options are useful for obtaining quick help and version information directly from the terminal.


  1. Basic Usage:
    Suppose you have a file dependencies.txt that lists items and their dependencies:

    A B
    B C
    C D

    To sort these items topologically, you would use:

    tsort dependencies.txt


  2. Standard Input:
    You can also pipe input directly into tsort:

    echo -e "A B\nB C\nA C" | tsort



Common Issues

  • Cyclic dependencies: If there is a cycle in the input data, tsort will output an error message indicating a cycle. To resolve this, check and modify the input data to remove any cyclical dependencies.
  • Incorrect format: Input must be pairs separated by whitespace. If the format is incorrect, tsort may produce unexpected results or errors.


tsort can be integrated with other commands to handle complex dependency scenarios. For example, you can combine it with awk to format input correctly before sorting:

awk '{print $1, $2}' input.txt | tsort

This can be useful for parsing complex data files to extract just the necessary elements for sorting.

  • sort: General text file sorting.
  • uniq: Report or omit repeated lines.

Further reading and official documentation for tsort can be found in the GNU coreutils manual, available at GNU Coreutils.