sort {base}R Documentation

Sorting or Ordering Vectors


Sort (or order) a vector or factor (partially) into ascending (or descending) order.


sort(x, partial = NULL, na.last = NA, decreasing = FALSE,
     method = c("shell", "quick"), index.return = FALSE)

is.unsorted(x, na.rm = FALSE)


x a numeric, complex, character or logical vector, or a factor.
partial a vector of indices for partial sorting.
na.last for controlling the treatment of NAs. If TRUE, missing values in the data are put last; if FALSE, they are put first; if NA, they are removed.
decreasing logical. Should the sort be increasing or decreasing? Not available for partial sorting.
method character specifying the algorithm used.
index.return logical indicating if the ordering index vector should be returned as well; this is only available for a few cases, the default na.last = NA and full sorting of non-factors.
na.rm logical. Should missing values be removed?


If partial is not NULL, it is taken to contain indices of elements of x which are to be placed in their correct positions by partial sorting. After the sort, the values specified in partial are in their correct position in the sorted array. Any values smaller than these values are guaranteed to have a smaller index in the sorted array and any values which are greater are guaranteed to have a bigger index in the sorted array. This is included for efficiency, and many of the options are not available for partial sorting.

The sort order for character vectors will depend on the collating sequence of the locale in use: see Comparison.

is.unsorted returns a logical indicating if x is sorted increasingly, i.e., is.unsorted(x) is true if any(x != sort(x)) (and there are no NAs).

Method "shell" uses Shellsort (an O(n^{4/3}) variant from Sedgewick (1996)). If x has names a stable sort is used, so ties are not reordered. (This only matters if names are present.)

Method "quick" uses Singleton's Quicksort implementation and is only available when x is numeric (double or integer) and partial is NULL. It is normally somewhat faster than Shellsort (perhaps twice as fast on vectors of length a million) but has poor performance in the rare worst case. (Peto's modification using a pseudo-random midpoint is used to make the worst case rarer.) This is not a stable sort, and ties may be reordered.


For sort the sorted vector unless index.return is true, when the result is a list with components named x and ix containing the sorted numbers and the ordering index vector. In the latter case, if method == "quick" ties may be reversed in the ordering, unlike sort.list, as quicksort is not stable.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

Sedgewick, R. (1986) A new upper bound for Shell sort. J. Algorithms 7, 159–173.

Singleton, R. C. (1969) An efficient algorithm for sorting with minimal storage: Algorithm 347. Communications of the ACM 12, 185–187.

See Also

order for sorting on or reordering multiple variables.



x <- swiss$Education[1:25]
x; sort(x); sort(x, partial = c(10, 15))
median # shows you another example for 'partial'

## illustrate 'stable' sorting (of ties):
sort(c(10:3,2:12), method = "sh", index=TRUE) # is stable
## $x : 2  3  3  4  4  5  5  6  6  7  7  8  8  9  9 10 10 11 12
## $ix: 9  8 10  7 11  6 12  5 13  4 14  3 15  2 16  1 17 18 19
sort(c(10:3,2:12), method = "qu", index=TRUE) # is not
## $x : 2  3  3  4  4  5  5  6  6  7  7  8  8  9  9 10 10 11 12
## $ix: 9 10  8  7 11  6 12  5 13  4 14  3 15 16  2 17  1 18 19
##        ^^^^^

## Not run: ## Small speed comparison simulation:
N <- 2000
Sim <- 20
rep <- 50 # << adjust to your CPU
c1 <- c2 <- numeric(Sim)
for(is in 1:Sim){
  x <- rnorm(N)
  c1[is] <- system.time(for(i in 1:rep) sort(x, method = "shell"),
                        gcFirst = TRUE)[1]
  c2[is] <- system.time(for(i in 1:rep) sort(x, method = "quick"),
                        gcFirst = TRUE)[1]
  stopifnot(sort(x, meth = "s") == sort(x, meth = "q"))
100 * rbind(ShellSort = c1, QuickSort = c2)
cat("Speedup factor of quick sort():\n")
summary({qq <- c1 / c2; qq[is.finite(qq)]})

## A larger test
x <- rnorm(1e6)
system.time(x1 <- sort(x, method = "shell"), gcFirst = TRUE)
system.time(x2 <- sort(x, method = "quick"), gcFirst = TRUE)
stopifnot(identical(x1, x2))
## End(Not run)

[Package base version 2.1.0 Index]