Simple yet flexible natural sorting in Python.

Quick Description

When you try to sort a list of strings that contain numbers, the normal python sort algorithm sorts lexicographically, so you might not get the results that you expect:

>>> a = ['2 ft 7 in', '1 ft 5 in', '10 ft 2 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in']
>>> sorted(a)
['1 ft 5 in', '10 ft 2 in', '2 ft 11 in', '2 ft 7 in', '7 ft 6 in']

Notice that it has the order ('1', '10', '2') - this is because the list is being sorted in lexicographical order, which sorts numbers like you would letters (i.e. 'b', 'ba', 'c').

natsort provides a function natsorted that helps sort lists "naturally" ("naturally" is rather ill-defined, but in general it means sorting based on meaning and not computer code point). Using natsorted is simple:

>>> from natsort import natsorted
>>> a = ['2 ft 7 in', '1 ft 5 in', '10 ft 2 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in']
>>> natsorted(a)
['1 ft 5 in', '2 ft 7 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in', '10 ft 2 in']

natsorted identifies numbers anywhere in a string and sorts them naturally. Below are some other things you can do with natsort (also see the examples for a quick start guide, or the api for complete details).

Note: natsorted is designed to be a drop-in replacement for the built-in sorted function. Like sorted, natsorted does not sort in-place. To sort a list and assign the output to the same variable, you must explicitly assign the output to a variable:

>>> a = ['2 ft 7 in', '1 ft 5 in', '10 ft 2 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in']
>>> natsorted(a)
['1 ft 5 in', '2 ft 7 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in', '10 ft 2 in']
>>> print(a)  # 'a' was not sorted; "natsorted" simply returned a sorted list
['2 ft 7 in', '1 ft 5 in', '10 ft 2 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in']
>>> a = natsorted(a)  # Now 'a' will be sorted because the sorted list was assigned to 'a'
>>> print(a)
['1 ft 5 in', '2 ft 7 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in', '10 ft 2 in']

Please see Generating a Reusable Sorting Key and Sorting In-Place for an alternate way to sort in-place naturally.

Sorting Versions

natsort does not actually comprehend version numbers. It just so happens that the most common versioning schemes are designed to work with standard natural sorting techniques; these schemes include MAJOR.MINOR, MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, YEAR.MONTH.DAY. If your data conforms to a scheme like this, then it will work out-of-the-box with natsorted (as of natsort version >= 4.0.0):

>>> a = ['version-1.9', 'version-2.0', 'version-1.11', 'version-1.10']
>>> natsorted(a)
['version-1.9', 'version-1.10', 'version-1.11', 'version-2.0']

If you need to versions that use a more complicated scheme, please see these examples.

Sort Paths Like My File Browser (e.g. Windows Explorer on Windows)

Prior to natsort version 7.1.0, it was a common request to be able to sort paths like Windows Explorer. As of natsort 7.1.0, the function os_sorted has been added to provide users the ability to sort in the order that their file browser might sort (e.g Windows Explorer on Windows, Finder on MacOS, Dolphin/Nautilus/Thunar/etc. on Linux).

import os
from natsort import os_sorted
# The directory sorted like your file browser might show

Output will be different depending on the operating system you are on.

For users not on Windows (e.g. MacOS/Linux) it is strongly recommended to also install PyICU, which will help natsort give results that match most file browsers. If this is not installed, it will fall back on Python's built-in locale module and will give good results for most input, but will give poor restuls for special characters.

Sorting by Real Numbers (i.e. Signed Floats)

This is useful in scientific data analysis (and was the default behavior of natsorted for natsort version < 4.0.0). Use the realsorted function:

>>> from natsort import realsorted, ns
>>> # Note that when interpreting as signed floats, the below numbers are
>>> #            +5.10,                -3.00,            +5.30,              +2.00
>>> a = ['', '', '', '']
>>> natsorted(a)
['', '', '', '']
>>> natsorted(a, alg=ns.REAL)
['', '', '', '']
>>> realsorted(a)  # shortcut for natsorted with alg=ns.REAL
['', '', '', '']

Locale-Aware Sorting (or "Human Sorting")

This is where the non-numeric characters are also ordered based on their meaning, not on their ordinal value, and a locale-dependent thousands separator and decimal separator is accounted for in the number. This can be achieved with the humansorted function:

>>> a = ['Apple', 'apple15', 'Banana', 'apple14,689', 'banana']
>>> natsorted(a)
['Apple', 'Banana', 'apple14,689', 'apple15', 'banana']
>>> import locale
>>> locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'en_US.UTF-8')
>>> natsorted(a, alg=ns.LOCALE)
['apple15', 'apple14,689', 'Apple', 'banana', 'Banana']
>>> from natsort import humansorted
>>> humansorted(a)  # shortcut for natsorted with alg=ns.LOCALE
['apple15', 'apple14,689', 'Apple', 'banana', 'Banana']

You may find you need to explicitly set the locale to get this to work (as shown in the example). Please see locale issues and the Optional Dependencies section below before using the humansorted function.

Further Customizing Natsort

If you need to combine multiple algorithm modifiers (such as ns.REAL, ns.LOCALE, and ns.IGNORECASE), you can combine the options using the bitwise OR operator (|). For example,

>>> a = ['Apple', 'apple15', 'Banana', 'apple14,689', 'banana']
>>> natsorted(a, alg=ns.REAL | ns.LOCALE | ns.IGNORECASE)
['Apple', 'apple15', 'apple14,689', 'Banana', 'banana']
>>> # The ns enum provides long and short forms for each option.
>>> ns.LOCALE == ns.L
>>> # You can also customize the convenience functions, too.
>>> natsorted(a, alg=ns.REAL | ns.LOCALE | ns.IGNORECASE) == realsorted(a, alg=ns.L | ns.IC)
>>> natsorted(a, alg=ns.REAL | ns.LOCALE | ns.IGNORECASE) == humansorted(a, alg=ns.R | ns.IC)

All of the available customizations can be found in the documentation for the ns enum.

You can also add your own custom transformation functions with the key argument. These can be used with alg if you wish.

>>> a = ['apple2.50', '2.3apple']
>>> natsorted(a, key=lambda x: x.replace('apple', ''), alg=ns.REAL)
['2.3apple', 'apple2.50']

Sorting Mixed Types

You can mix and match int, float, and str (or unicode) types when you sort:

>>> a = ['4.5', 6, 2.0, '5', 'a']
>>> natsorted(a)
[2.0, '4.5', '5', 6, 'a']
>>> # On Python 2, sorted(a) would return [2.0, 6, '4.5', '5', 'a']
>>> # On Python 3, sorted(a) would raise an "unorderable types" TypeError

Handling Bytes on Python 3

natsort does not officially support the bytes type on Python 3, but convenience functions are provided that help you decode to str first:

>>> from natsort import as_utf8
>>> a = [b'a', 14.0, 'b']
>>> # On Python 2, natsorted(a) would would work as expected.
>>> # On Python 3, natsorted(a) would raise a TypeError (bytes() < str())
>>> natsorted(a, key=as_utf8) == [14.0, b'a', 'b']
>>> a = [b'a56', b'a5', b'a6', b'a40']
>>> # On Python 2, natsorted(a) would would work as expected.
>>> # On Python 3, natsorted(a) would return the same results as sorted(a)
>>> natsorted(a, key=as_utf8) == [b'a5', b'a6', b'a40', b'a56']

Generating a Reusable Sorting Key and Sorting In-Place

Under the hood, natsorted works by generating a custom sorting key using natsort_keygen and then passes that to the built-in sorted. You can use the natsort_keygen function yourself to generate a custom sorting key to sort in-place using the list.sort method.

>>> from natsort import natsort_keygen
>>> natsort_key = natsort_keygen()
>>> a = ['2 ft 7 in', '1 ft 5 in', '10 ft 2 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in']
>>> natsorted(a) == sorted(a, key=natsort_key)
>>> a.sort(key=natsort_key)
>>> a
['1 ft 5 in', '2 ft 7 in', '2 ft 11 in', '7 ft 6 in', '10 ft 2 in']

All of the algorithm customizations mentioned in the Further Customizing Natsort section can also be applied to natsort_keygen through the alg keyword option.