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mailsplit: sort maildir filenames more cleverly

A maildir does not technically record the order in which
items were placed into it. That means that when applying a
patch series from a maildir, we may get the patches in the
wrong order. We try to work around this by sorting the
filenames. Unfortunately, this may or may not work depending
on the naming scheme used by the writer of the maildir.

For instance, mutt will write:


where we have:

  - epoch_seconds: timestamp at which entry was written
  - pid: PID of writing process
  - seq: a sequence number to ensure uniqueness of filenames
  - host: hostname

None of the numbers are zero-padded. Therefore, when we sort
the names as byte strings, entries that cross a digit
boundary (e.g., 10) will sort out of order.  In the case of
timestamps, it almost never matters (because we do not cross
a digit boundary in the epoch time very often these days).
But for the sequence number, a 10-patch series would be
ordered as 1, 10, 2, 3, etc.

To fix this, we can use a custom sort comparison function
which traverses each string, comparing chunks of digits
numerically, and otherwise doing a byte-for-byte comparison.
That would sort:

according to the sequence number. Since maildir does not
define a filename format, this is really just a heuristic.
But it happens to work for mutt, and there is a reasonable
chance that it will work for other writers, too (at least as
well as a straight sort).

Signed-off-by: Jeff King <>
Signed-off-by: Junio C Hamano <>
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commit 18505c34237d3544729c3deed3e4f851fb672086 1 parent 06d67b8
@peff peff authored gitster committed
Showing with 23 additions and 0 deletions.
  1. +23 −0 builtin/mailsplit.c
23 builtin/mailsplit.c
@@ -130,6 +130,27 @@ static int populate_maildir_list(struct string_list *list, const char *path)
return 0;
+static int maildir_filename_cmp(const char *a, const char *b)
+ while (*a && *b) {
+ if (isdigit(*a) && isdigit(*b)) {
+ long int na, nb;
+ na = strtol(a, (char **)&a, 10);
+ nb = strtol(b, (char **)&b, 10);
+ if (na != nb)
+ return na - nb;
+ /* strtol advanced our pointers */
+ }
+ else {
+ if (*a != *b)
+ return (unsigned char)*a - (unsigned char)*b;
+ a++;
+ b++;
+ }
+ }
+ return (unsigned char)*a - (unsigned char)*b;
static int split_maildir(const char *maildir, const char *dir,
int nr_prec, int skip)
@@ -139,6 +160,8 @@ static int split_maildir(const char *maildir, const char *dir,
int i;
struct string_list list = STRING_LIST_INIT_DUP;
+ list.cmp = maildir_filename_cmp;
if (populate_maildir_list(&list, maildir) < 0)
goto out;

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