Learn some of the most common and useful features of the pathlib module that allows you to manipulate files and directories.

Module pathlib overview


The module pathlib is one of my favourite modules from the standard library. It is my go-to tool whenever I need to deal with and manipulate files and directories.

Earlier today, at the time of writing, I had to rename hundreds of files inside a folder. I didn't even know exactly how many files I needed to rename. What I needed to do was find all files that had a .css extension and change it to .tcss.

I solved it with these three lines of code, directly from the REPL:

from pathlib import Path
for file in Path(".").rglob("*.css"):

That was it! Pretty powerful.

Let me give you a brief introduction to pathlib. I'll explain what just happened in the code above and I will also show a couple of other commonly useful tools.

The class Path

It all starts with the class Path. The class Path creates instances of paths: objects that represent directories and file paths in your filesystem.

The class Path lets you manipulate real files and directories and it can effect real changes: for example, actually rename files, like I mentioned above.

For example, the code below could be used to rename a file file_1.txt as my_file.txt:

from pathlib import Path

Note that you instantiate Path but pathlib will create one of two objects for you:

  • WindowsPath if you're on a Windows machine; or
  • PosixPath otherwise.

You should always instantiate Path and let pathlib figure out which type to use. This will make sure your code is portable and can run on other machines.

Useful path attributes

Paths have many useful attributes that let you access important pieces of information associated with each path. There are ten such attributes, but the two most commonly used and useful are .name and .parent.

Attribute .name

The attribute .name (which really is a property) will give you the name of the file or folder that the path refers to:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> Path("/this/is/a/path/to/a/file.txt").name
>>> Path("/this/is/a/path/to/a/folder").name

Attribute .parent

On the other hand, the attribute .parent (which is also a property) retrieves the logical parent of the path. It is more or less what you'd get if you dropped the .name from the path:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> Path("/this/is/a/path/to/a/file.txt").parent
>>> Path("/this/is/a/path/to/a/folder").parent

While .name returns a string with the last part of a path, .parent returns another Path instance, which means you can use .parent to navigate up the file hierarchy.

I just showed you how to navigate up the filesystem with .parent. The operator /, which is typically used for division with integers and floats, can be used to concatenate file paths.

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> Path("/this") / "is" / "a" / "path"

You can also use .. to navigate up the filesystem, in which case you may want to use the method resolve to get the final path:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> Path("/this/is/a/path/tooo") / ".." / "to/a/file.txt"
>>> (
...     Path("/this/is/a/path/tooo") / ".." / "to/a/file.txt"
... ).resolve()

Useful path methods

Does the path point to an existing file or directory?

The answer: .exists. The method .exists returns True if the file/directory exists and returns False otherwise. Simple as that.

Changing parts of the path

If you have a path that you want to modify slightly to create a new path, you may use the .with_X methods of path objects.

For example, the code in the introduction used the method with_suffix, which essentially changes the extension of a file path:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> Path("file")
>>> Path("file").with_suffix(".txt")
>>> Path("file.txt").with_suffix(".csv")

There are three such methods:

  • with_name: change the name of a path;
  • with_stem: change the stem of a path (the name, minus the extension) (Python 3.9+); and
  • with_suffix: change the suffix (extension) of a path.

Renaming files and folders

If you want to rename a file or a folder, you can use the method rename. That's what I used above to rename hundreds of files. If you are renaming your file/folder to a name target that already exists, you can use .replace(target) instead, and it will overwrite the existing target.

Creating files and directories

To create a file you'll want to use the method .touch. If you want to create a directory, you'll want to use the method .mkdir. Both methods raise a FileExistsError error if the thing you're trying to create already exists.

If you specify the argument exist_ok=True, then the methods won't raise an error if the file/directory already exists.

Searching for files

The final functionality that I used in my two lines of code above and that I didn't explain yet is the method .rglob. The methods .glob and .rglob look for files in a given path that match a “glob pattern”.

The glob pattern *.css finds all files that end with the extension .css. The call .glob("*.css") finds .css files in the folder specified. The call .rglob("*.css") finds .css files in the folder specified and recurses into other directories.

Suppose we have this file structure:

|- one.css
|- two.css
|- sub
   |- three.css

Then, the code would work as follows:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> list(Path("folder").glob("*.css"))
[PosixPath('css/one.css'), PosixPath('css/two.css')]

>>> list(Path("folder").rglob("*.css"))

Find the folder a script is in

As a bonus tip, I want to share with you a small expression I use quite often in my scripts, which lets me figure out the folder a script is running in:

from pathlib import Path
folder = Path(__file__).parent

If you are in a Python script (note this doesn't work in the REPL and I think it also doesn't work in notebooks), then __file__ is a dunder attribute that is the path of the file itself, so Path(__file__).parent is the folder your script is running in.

I use this very often when I need to access other folders that live next to the script. For example, to access the folder res that lives next to the script my_script.py in the following hierarchy:

|- res
   |- ...

I can get to res, from within my_script, with Path(__file__).parent / "res".

Thanks for reading ❤️

If you enjoyed this blog article, you will love the mathspp insider 🐍🚀 newsletter! Join +16.000 others who are taking their Python 🐍 skills to the next level! 🚀


Previous Post Next Post

Blog Comments powered by Disqus.