Talk:Walk a directory/Recursively

From Rosetta Code

I think the precise statement of the problem is a little too restricted. In some cases it's possible to walk the directory tree, printing all the matching filenames with somewhat less code than it is to walk the tree in order to collect a list of the matches or to perform other operations on them. Also there are many criteria on which one might wish to select files beyond just file names. JimD 19:13, 15 October 2007 (MDT)

This is true. The instructions could be changed to call a function, but I've been hesitant to use that abstraction for the sake of simplicity. Really, I'd just like to leave a comment along the lines of /* do something here */ in the appropriate place, but I'm not sure how to word that. --Short Circuit 20:00, 15 October 2007 (MDT)
The current text of the task:
 Walk a given directory tree and print files matching a given pattern. 
My suggestion:
 Walk a given directory tree, calling a function for every filename which matches
 a given wildcard, UNIX glob, or regex pattern (whichever is easiest for the given language).
Sounds fine to me. Go ahead and make the change. I'll add filling in what I know of globs and regex later.
Question: would we want to create a small set of more complex tree walking tasks which ask how one would do things like: follow (or refrain from following) symbolic links, refrain from crossing UNIX/Linux mount points, select files based on their stat() criteria (such as link count, dates, ownership, group association, permissions, etc) or on their contents?
I could see the components (creating/identifying symbolic links, creating hard links, getting link counts, getting create/modified dates, getting and setting file and directory ownership, getting and setting group association, getting and setting permissions and identifying mount points) as their own tasks. None of them are even UNIX-specific; Even Windows supports symbolic and hard links. But building find alternative is too complicated for your average task, or even a puzzle. --Short Circuit 21:54, 16 October 2007 (MDT)

Is the problem to just find filenames, excluding the path, that match the pattern? That's usually the example, and in that case, many of the snippets here have bugs because they apply the regex to the entire path, not just the filename. (Unsigned comment added by at 22:21, 24 October 2010

Does someone want to clarify the task description? If we're walking a directory tree, we would normally be considering entries within each directory we examine. It may also be worthwhile setting up an example directory structure with anticipated results. (Particularly considering things like matches against directory names, such as a search for \*\.txt, and there being a 'files.txt' directory in the tree.) --Michael Mol 13:09, 25 October 2010 (UTC)


Just curious, how many of these hand rolled solutions can deal with a symlink (or hardlink) to a higher directory (i.e. cyclic graph)? If encountering one, would it bail with "pathname too long", or loop until memory exausted? --Ledrug 04:56, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

In Python, the full docs for os.walk show that by default, symlinks are not followed. There is an optional parameter that allows symlinks to be followed and a banner note states:
Note: Be aware that setting followlinks to True can lead to infinite recursion if a link points to a parent directory of itself. walk() does not keep track of the directories it visited already.
There is also a note and warning about using relative pathnames and the assumption that code will not change the current directory during calls to os.walk. --Paddy3118 06:04, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I have no doubt a proper library would have thought about it. But some of the code samples didn't use a library and just used recursion, which can have funny results. I guess it's ok for examples here, though. And I don't know why I said "harlink" above, bah. --Ledrug 06:57, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
In every OS that I am aware of, a symlink needs special treatment to be read (if they are supported at all), and a hardlink to a directory is an error. --Rdm 12:10, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
It's a matter of whether the language you use by default returns true for a directory test on a symlinked dir. For example, in bash:
<lang bash>if [ -d /some/symlink/to/dir ]

then echo it is a dir fi</lang>

will say it is a directory, and you can do globbing on it just like normal dirs. You'd have to specifically remember to check if it's a symlink. --Ledrug 20:53, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Ok, yes, bash is very inconsistent about how it handles symlinks. I remember talking with the bash maintainer about this, a number of years ago, and felt unsatisfied afterwards. In particular, cd ../example can fail, while cd -P .; cd ../example can succeed, because bash implements its own rules for about what directories are in the context of symbolic links, which conflicts with that of the underlying operating system. But that's a bash issue -- I do not know of any other language which suffers from that design. (And bash can rely on find or ls which implement sane treatment of symbolic links.) --Rdm 23:37, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Eh, not really a bash specific problem. E.g.
perl -e 'print "is a dir\n" if -d "/some/symlink/dir"
or zsh
if [[ -d /some/symlink/dir ]]; then echo "is a dir"; fi
basically <lang C>#include <stdio.h>
  1. include <sys/types.h>
  2. include <dirent.h>

int main() {

       DIR * x = opendir("/symlink/dir");
       if (x) {
               printf("open ok\n");
       } else {
               printf("open not ok\n");
       return 0;

} </lang> will succeed on openning a symlinked dir (it makes sense), and that's the thing one needs to check for. --Ledrug 00:53, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Ok, you are right that -d under perl does the wrong thing for a terminating recursive traversal. That said, the perl implementation does not seem to be using -d for that purpose. Similarly, the C implementation uses stat, and not opendir, to recognize directories. Even the zsh implementation is doing the right thing. But now I am wondering: does zsh also have the issue where paths such as ../foo are manipulated by the shell before being passed to the operating system? --Rdm 12:22, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
This script<lang bash>#!/usr/bin/zsh

cd /tmp mkdir dir1 dir2 ln -s dir1 symlink

cd dir1; pwd cd ../dir2; pwd cd ..; pwd cd symlink; pwd cd ../dir2; pwd</lang>says: <lang>/tmp/dir1 /tmp/dir2 /tmp /tmp/symlink /tmp/dir2</lang> Which doesn't seem to do anything unexpected. --Ledrug 17:20, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

I was thinking more like this: <lang bash>#!/usr/bin/bash

mkdir dir1 dir2 cd dir2 ln -s ../dir1 mkdir dir2 cd dir1 (cd -P .; cd ../dir2; pwd -P) (cd .; cd ../dir2; pwd -P) </lang> When I run that in the directory /tmp/t, I get: <lang>/tmp/t/dir2 /tmp/t/dir2/dir2</lang> That said, the behavior now is much better than what it used to be. If I remove the second mkdir line, and delete the directories and run that again, I get <lang>/tmp/t/dir2 /tmp/t/dir2</lang> where once upon a time if I did not use cd -P . I would get an error trying to cd ../dir2. --Rdm 20:14, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Tested your script in zsh, result was exactly the same. --Ledrug 20:32, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Be Careful: Not Here Only

Regarding "Note: Please be careful when running any code examples found here": that applies to pretty much every problem page you see on Rosetta!!! Any program that is not completely trivial and transparent (to your eyes) can be hiding something unsavory.--Kazinator (talk) 21:11, 19 June 2017 (UTC)

Generally speaking, you should try to comprehend what the code is doing. That said, I have not noticed any abusive code here, yet. I have seen quite a lot of abusive users but mostly they are trying for search engine pollution (which we delete, of course) rather than investing their time into getting developers run bad code. Still, the whole point of this site is to understand what's going on in a variety of contexts, so putting some effort into that is good practice for a variety of reasons. --Rdm (talk) 21:30, 19 June 2017 (UTC)