scripts — Scripting Utilities

A light-weight package with few dependencies that allows users to do shell-script like things relatively easily in Python.

It consists of replacements for some very common Unix utilities that interact with the filesystem, such as cp, mv, rm, ln, and mkdir. These tend to be less fussy than their command line counter parts. For example, rm deletes both files and directories without distinction and will not complain if the file or directory does not exist. Similarly mkdir will create any child directories needed and will not complain if the directory already exists.

Finally, it provides several ways to run external programs.

Each feature is designed to allow you to express your desires simply and efficiently without worrying too much about exceptions.

System Utility Functions

Copy (cp)

Copy files or directories:

cp(src, ..., dest)

Copy all source items, whether they be files or directories to dest. If there is more than one src item, then dest must be a directory and the copies will be placed in that directory. The src arguments may be strings or lists of strings. The dest must be a string.


>>> from scripts import *
>>> testdir = 'testdir'
>>> rm(testdir)
>>> mkdir(testdir)
>>> files = all_paths(testdir, ['f1', 'f2'])
>>> touch(files)
>>> dirs = all_paths(testdir, ['d1', 'd2'])
>>> mkdir(dirs)
>>> print(sorted(ls(path=testdir)))
['testdir/d1', 'testdir/d2', 'testdir/f1', 'testdir/f2']

>>> cp('testdir/f1', 'testdir/f4')
>>> print(sorted(lsf(path=testdir)))
['testdir/f1', 'testdir/f2', 'testdir/f4']

>>> dest1 = join(testdir, 'dest1')
>>> mkdir(dest1)
>>> cp(files, dest1)
>>> print(sorted(lsf(path=dest1)))
['testdir/dest1/f1', 'testdir/dest1/f2']

>>> cp(dirs, dest1)
>>> print(sorted(lsd(path=dest1)))
['testdir/dest1/d1', 'testdir/dest1/d2']

>>> f1, f2 = tuple(files)
>>> dest2 = join(testdir, 'dest2')
>>> mkdir(dest2)
>>> cp(f1, f2, dest2)
>>> print(sorted(lsf(path=dest2)))
['testdir/dest2/f1', 'testdir/dest2/f2']

>>> dest3 = join(testdir, 'dest3')
>>> mkdir(dest3)
>>> cp([f1, f2], dest3)
>>> print(sorted(lsf(path=dest3)))
['testdir/dest3/f1', 'testdir/dest3/f2']

Move (mv)

Move files or directories:

mv(src, ..., dest)

Move all source items, whether they be files or directories to dest. If there is more than one src item, then dest must be a directory and everything will be placed in that directory. The src arguments may be strings or lists of strings. The dest must be a string.

>>> from scripts import *
>>> testdir = 'testdir'
>>> rm(testdir)
>>> mkdir(testdir)
>>> files = all_paths(testdir, ['f1', 'f2'])
>>> touch(files)
>>> dirs = all_paths(testdir, ['d1', 'd2'])
>>> mkdir(dirs)
>>> print(sorted(ls(path=testdir)))
['testdir/d1', 'testdir/d2', 'testdir/f1', 'testdir/f2']

>>> dest = join(testdir, 'dest')
>>> mkdir(dest)
>>> mv(files, dest)                  # move a list of files
>>> print(sorted(lsf(path=dest)))
['testdir/dest/f1', 'testdir/dest/f2']

>>> mv(dirs, dest)                   # move a list of directories
>>> print(sorted(lsd(path=dest)))
['testdir/dest/d1', 'testdir/dest/d2']

Remove (rm)

Remove files or directories:

rm(path, ...)

Delete all files and directories given as arguments. Does not complain if any of the items do not exist. Each argument must be either a string or a list of strings.

>>> print(sorted(ls(path=testdir)))

>>> print(sorted(ls(path=dest)))
['testdir/dest/d1', 'testdir/dest/d2', 'testdir/dest/f1', 'testdir/dest/f2']

>>> rm(lsf(path=dest))
>>> print(sorted(ls(path=dest)))
['testdir/dest/d1', 'testdir/dest/d2']

>>> rm(dest)
>>> print(sorted(ls(path=testdir)))

>>> rm(testdir)

Make File (touch)

Create a new empty file or update the timestamp on an existing file:

touch(path, ...)

Each argument must be either a string or a list of strings.

Make Directory (mkdir)

Create an empty directory:

mkdir(path, ...)

For each argument it creates a directory and any needed parent directories. Returns without complaint if the directory already exists. Each argument must be either a string or a list of strings.

List Directory (ls, lsd, lsf)

List a directory:

ls(glb, path)
lsd(glb, path)
lsf(glb, path)

The first form returns a list of all items found in a directory. The second returns only the directories, and the third returns only the files. The glob pattern (glb) can be used to restrict the items shown. If path is not given, the current working directory is assumed.


pyfiles = lsf('*.py')
subdirs = lsd()
tmp_mutt = lsf('mutt-*', '/tmp')

Join Path Components (join)

Combine path components to create a path:

join(comp, ...)

Combine components into a path. If a subsequent component is an absolute path, previous components are discarded.

Can also be used to expand the user (~) or environment variables in path. Whether this is done by default is controlled by script_prefs.

>>> from scripts import *

>>> python = join('bin', '/usr/bin', 'python')
>>> python

>>> home1 = join('~', expanduser=True)
>>> home2 = join('$HOME', expandvars=True)
>>> home1 == home2

Path Utilities

name and args





returns true if path exists



returns true if path does not exist



returns true if path exists and is a file



returns true if path exists and is a directory



returns true if path exists and is a link



returns true if path exists and is readable



returns true if path exists and is writable



returns true if path exists and is executable



converts path to an absolute path



converts path to a relative path from cwd

pathfrom(path, start)


converts path to a relative path from start



returns a cleaned up version of the path



returns path with last component removed



returns last component of path



returns (head, tail) (alt split)



returns each component of path split into tuple



returns path with extension removed



returns extension



returns (root, ext)



returns path with extension added



just like normal open, but errors trigger ScriptError

Path lists

Cartesian Product

Create a list of files from path fragments:

all_paths(comp, ...)

Like with join(), the components are combined to form a path, but in this case each component may be a list. The results is the various components are combined in a Cartesian product to form a list. For example:

>>> paths = all_paths(['A', 'B'], ['a', 'b'], ['1', '2'])
>>> for p in paths:
...     print(p)

This function is similar to brace expansion in the shell. For example:

all_paths(['a'], ['d', 'c', 'b'], ['e'])

is equivalent to the following shell brace expansion:


and each produces: ade ace abe.


Expand glob patterns:


Expand glob pattern into all files or directories, into directories only, or into files only.

The all_paths iterator is different in an important way from the expand iterators. The all_paths iterator will generate paths that may not currently exist on your filesystem, whereas the expand iterators only yield existing paths. In terms of shell expansions, all_paths is like {}, whereas expand is like *.

Walk File Hierarchy

fwalk(path, accept=None, reject=None, exclude=None)

Returns a generator that iterates through all the files contained in a directory hierarchy. Accept and reject criteria are glob strings, or lists of glob strings. For a file to be returned its name must not match any of the reject criteria if any are given, and it must match one of the accept criteria, if any are given. If no criteria are given, all files are returned. Exclude is a file or directory or a list of files or directories to exclude. Each is specified relative from the current working directory.


Examine the tail of each path in a list and filter out those that match a given glob pattern.

filter(glb, paths)

Executing Programs

The following classes and functions are used to execute external programs from within Python.

Command (Cmd)

A class that runs an external program:

Cmd(cmd[, modes][, encoding])

cmd may be a list or a string. mode is a string that specifies various options. The options are specified using a single letter, with upper case enabling the option and lower case disabling it:

S, s: Use, or do not use, shell
O, o: Capture, or do not capture, stdout
E, e: Capture, or do not capture, stderr
W, s: Wait, or do not wait, for command to terminate before proceeding

If a letter corresponding to a particular option is not specified, the default is used for that option. In addition, one of the following may be given, and it must be given last

*: accept any output status code
N: accept any output status code equal to or less than N
M,N,…: accept status codes M, N, …

If you do not specify the status code behavior, only 0 is accepted as normal termination, all other codes will be treated as errors.

For example, to run diff you might use:

diff = Cmd('diff test ref', 'sOEW1')
differences = diff.stdout

Use of O in the modes allows access to stdout, which is needed to access the differences. Specifying E also allows access to stderr, which in this case is helpful in case something goes wrong because it allows the error handler to access the error message generated by diff. Specifying W indicates that run() should block until diff completes. Specifying 1 indicates that either 0 or 1 are valid output status codes; any other code output by diff would be treated as an error.

If you do not indicate that stdout or stderr should be captured, those streams remain connected to your TTY. You can specify a string to the run() method, which is fed to the program through stdin. If you don’t specify anything the stdin stream for the program also remains connected to the TTY.

If you indicate that run() should return immediately without out waiting for the program to exit, then you can use the wait() and kill() methods to manage the execution. For example:

diff = Cmd(['gvim', '-d', lfile, rfile], 'w')
except KeyboardInterrupt:

Run and Sh

Run and Sh are subclasses of Cmd. They are the same except that they both run the program right away (you would not explicitly run the program with the run()). Run does not use a shell by default where as Sh does.

run, sh, bg, shbg

These are functions that run a program without capturing their output:

run(cmd, stdin=None, accept=0, shell=False)
sh(cmd, stdin=None, accept=0, shell=True)
bg(cmd, stdin=None, shell=False)
shbg(cmd, stdin=None, shell=True)

run and sh block until the program completes, whereas bg and shbg do not. run and bg do not use a shell by default where as sh and shbg do. accept specifies the exit status codes that will be accepted without being treated as being an error. If you specify a simple number, than any code greater than thatvalue is treated as an error. If you provide a collection of numbers in a tuple or list, then any code not found in the collection is considered an error.


Given a name, a path, and a collection of read, write, or execute flags, this function returns the locations along the path where a file or directory can be found with matching flags:

which(name, path=None, flags=os.X_OK)

By default the path is specified by the PATH environment variable and the flags check whether you have execute permission.


An alternative version of open named fopen is provided:

with fopen(<filepath>, [mode='r'], [encoding=default_encoding]) as f:

It differs from open in that:

  1. it generates a ScriptError rather than an IOError if there is a problem opening the file

  2. it will use the default encoding (see script preferences below) if none is specified.


These functions and classes all generate ScriptError. Generally, one would wrap an entire script in a single try/except block rather than putting them on each command:

except ScriptError as err:

It is also possible to specify that a script error will always print and error message and then simply terminate the program without returning (see script preferences).

Script Preferences

The program has the following default behaviors:

exit_upon_error (default=False)
expanduser (default=True)
expandvars (default=False)
encoding (default=’utf-8’)
show_cmd_in_errors (default=True)

If you wish to change these behaviors, use the following example as guidance:

script_prefs.set('exit_upon_error', True)

The value of show_cmd_in_errors may be False, True (first word only), or ‘full’ (the entire command).

Alternatively, script_prefs is callable and you can set the preferences using keyword arguments:

script_prefs(exit_upon_error=True, expanduser=True, expandvars=False)

To Do

There are still some obvious extensions that would be useful and open issues to resolve. They are:

  1. missing a recursive file generator that will walk an entire file hierarchy.

  2. Need to review function names to assure they are the best available (short, memorable, unlikely to clash).

  3. Currently there is considerable inconsistency between the behavior of shell-like command functions provided in this package and those provided by the shell. For example, the shell version of rm will not delete a directory without adding flags, whereas this one will. It would be possible to make them consistent if a flags argument were added to allow the default behavior to be overridden easily. The flags argument would be similar to that provided by Cmd.

  4. Should we switch the order of the arguments to the ls and filter functions?

  5. The documentation could use some work (more examples).