Python Pathlib Module

The pathlib module was added in Python 3.4, offering an object-oriented way to handle file system paths.

Pathlib vs Os Module

pathlib provides a lot more functionality than the ones from os and listed here, like getting file name, getting file extension, reading/writing a file without manually opening it, etc. See the official documentation if you intend to know more.

Linux and Windows Paths

On Windows, paths are written using backslashes (\) as the separator between folder names. On Unix based operating system such as macOS, Linux, and BSDs, the forward slash (/) is used as the path separator. Joining paths can be a headache if your code needs to work on different platforms.

Fortunately, Python provides us with pathlib.Path.joinpath to easily handle this.

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> print(Path('usr').joinpath('bin').joinpath('spam'))
# usr/bin/spam

pathlib also provides a shortcut to joinpath using the / operator:

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> print(Path('usr') / 'bin' / 'spam')
# usr/bin/spam

Joining paths is helpful if you need to create different file paths under the same directory.

>>> my_files = ['accounts.txt', 'details.csv', 'invite.docx']
>>> home = Path.home()
>>> for filename in my_files:
...     print(home / filename)
# /home/docs/accounts.txt
# /home/docs/details.csv
# /home/docs/invite.docx

The current working directory

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> from os import chdir

>>> print(Path.cwd())
# /home/docs

>>> chdir('/usr/lib/python3.10')
>>> print(Path.cwd())
# /usr/lib/python3.10

Creating new folders

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> cwd = Path.cwd()
>>> (cwd / 'delicious' / 'walnut' / 'waffles').mkdir()
# Traceback (most recent call last):
#   File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
#   File "/usr/lib/python3.10/", line 1226, in mkdir
#     self._accessor.mkdir(self, mode)
#   File "/usr/lib/python3.10/", line 387, in wrapped
#     return strfunc(str(pathobj), *args)
# FileNotFoundError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: '/home/docs/delicious/walnut/waffles'

The reason of this error is that the ‘delicious’ directory does not exist, so we cannot make the ‘walnut’ and the ‘waffles’ directories under it. To fix this, do:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> cwd = Path.cwd()
>>> (cwd / 'delicious' / 'walnut' / 'waffles').mkdir(parents=True)

Absolute vs. Relative paths

There are two ways to specify a file path.

  • An absolute path, which always begins with the root folder
  • A relative path, which is relative to the program’s current working directory

There are also the dot (.) and dot-dot (..) folders. These are not real folders, but special names that can be used in a path. A single period (“dot”) for a folder name is shorthand for “this directory.” Two periods (“dot-dot”) means “the parent folder.”

Handling Absolute paths

To see if a path is an absolute path:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> Path('/').is_absolute()
# True

>>> Path('..').is_absolute()
# False

You can also extract an absolute path:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> print(Path.cwd())
# /home/docs

>>> print(Path('..').resolve())
# /home

Handling Relative paths

You can get a relative path from a starting path to another path.

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> print(Path('/etc/passwd').relative_to('/'))
# etc/passwd

Path and File validity

Checking if a file/directory exists

from pathlib import Path

>>> Path('.').exists()
# True

>>> Path('').exists()
# True

>>> Path('/etc').exists()
# True

>>> Path('nonexistentfile').exists()
# False

Checking if a path is a file

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> Path('').is_file()
# True

>>> Path('/home').is_file()
# False

>>> Path('nonexistentfile').is_file()
# False

Checking if a path is a directory

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> Path('/').is_dir()
# True

>>> Path('').is_dir()
# False

>>> Path('/spam').is_dir()
# False

Getting a file’s size in bytes

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> stat = Path('/bin/python3.10').stat()
>>> print(stat) # stat contains some other information about the file as well
# os.stat_result(st_mode=33261, st_ino=141087, st_dev=2051, st_nlink=2, st_uid=0,
# --snip--
# st_gid=0, st_size=10024, st_atime=1517725562, st_mtime=1515119809, st_ctime=1517261276)

>>> print(stat.st_size) # size in bytes
# 10024

Listing directories

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> for f in Path('/usr/bin').iterdir():
...     print(f)
# ...
# /usr/bin/tiff2rgba
# /usr/bin/iconv
# /usr/bin/ldd
# /usr/bin/cache_restore
# /usr/bin/udiskie
# /usr/bin/unix2dos
# /usr/bin/t1reencode
# /usr/bin/epstopdf
# /usr/bin/idle3
# ...

Directory file sizes


Directories themselves also have a size! So, you might want to check for whether a path is a file or directory using the methods in the methods discussed in the above section.

>>> from pathlib import Path

>>> total_size = 0
>>> for sub_path in Path('/usr/bin').iterdir():
...     total_size += sub_path.stat().st_size
>>> print(total_size)
# 1903178911

Deleting files and folders

  • Calling Path.unlink() will delete the file at path.

  • Calling Path.rmdir() will delete the folder at path. This folder must be empty of any files or folders.