One of the first things many beginner Python tutorials teach is how to read or write files using patterns like

with open('file.txt') as f:
    f.read()

And then walk directories with libraries such as os:

import os
g = os.walk('.')
next(g)

Which will go recursively through results depth first, leaving to you, the programmer, the joy of writing your own algorithm for searching files or listing files of a certain type.

Other calls such as os.rename or to os.path.join have the developer
manipulate paths manually with string concatenation and os.sep. Not much fun.

Neither of these approaches is wrong. But they’re cumbersome and code can get thorny quickly.

Today we’re going to take a look at pathlib which was introduced in Python 3.4 and simplifies our work with files tremendously. We’ll showcase pathlib’s most popular features.
Let’s start with the basics: Reading and writing text files.

We’re going to use read_text and write_text on our Path instance. Let’s throw in some yaml for the fun of it.

from pathlib import Path
import yaml

path = Path('tmp/file.yaml')
contents = path.read_text()
yaml_content = yaml.load(contents)

# yaml_content
# {'name': 'Radu', 'lastname': 'P', 'uses': 'linux', 'twitter': 'wooptoo'}

yaml_content['name'] = 'Rad'
path.write_text(yaml.dump(yaml_content))

What if we want to rename our file? We’ll reuse the path from the previous example.

path = Path('tmp/file.yaml')
new_path = path.with_name('myfile.yaml')

# PosixPath('tmp/myfile.yaml')

path.rename(new_path)
path.exists()
# False

new_path.exists()
# True

Our file was renamed in a few easy steps, in a nice object oriented fashion.
path.with_suffix('.txt') is very similar, and will just change our file’s extension and keep the initial file name.

PosixPath represents our path instance, which enables us to do all sorts of operations, like creating a new directory, checking for existence, checking for file type, getting size, checking for user, group, permissions, etc. Basically everything we would previously do with the os.path module.

Let’s fetch all our yaml files now with glob:

from pathlib import Path
tmp = Path('tmp')
g = tmp.glob('*.yaml')
list(g)

# [PosixPath('tmp/myfile4.yaml'),
# PosixPath('tmp/myfile3.yaml'),
# PosixPath('tmp/myfile2.yaml'),
# PosixPath('tmp/myfile.yaml')]

And we can take it from there. glob and rglob are super handy for this kind of stuff. Of course Python had the glob module before, but having it under pathlib’s umbrella is extremely handy.

Next we can iterate through sub-directories using rglob with patterns like ./ Or we can just use iterdir which is nicer.

tmp = Path('tmp')
dgen = tmp.iterdir()
list(dgen)

# [PosixPath('tmp/snappysnaps'),
# PosixPath('tmp/cameraphotos'),
# PosixPath('tmp/yamlfiles')]

And one last thing which I’m going to touch upon is traversing folders, and even creating new paths.

tmp = Path('tmp')
new_path = tmp / 'pictures' / 'camera'

# PosixPath('tmp/pictures/camera')

new_path.mkdir(parents=True)
new_path.exists()

# True

This wizardry is done by overloading the / operator of the Path instance. In Python 3 this is the private __truediv__ method.

p = Path('tmp')
p / 'myfile.txt' == p.__truediv__('myfile.txt')

# True

In a nutshell these are the most common cases which you’ll use on a daily basis if you work with files a lot.
We’ve managed to replace three different libraries (os, glob and open/read) with pathlib which gives us a neat developer interface.

Since pathlib is now part of the Python standard library there’s absolutely no reason to not use it for new projects. More on the library can be read in the manual page.