5 Best Ways to Ask a User to Select a Folder to Read the Files in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: This article provides solutions to the common task of prompting a user to select a directory from which a Python script can read files. The aim is to enable file processing or analysis based on user-selected content. For instance, input could be the user’s selection of a ‘Photos’ folder and the desired output would be a list of file paths of the photos contained therein.

Method 1: Using os and input Functions

The os module in Python provides a way to interact with the operating system. Combined with the built-in input function, it can prompt users to enter the path of the folder they wish to select manually. This method is platform-independent and doesn’t require additional installations.

Here’s an example:

import os

folder_path = input("Please enter the path of your folder: ")
file_list = os.listdir(folder_path)

print("Files in the selected folder:")

Output: A list of files in the user-specified folder.

This code snippet captures the path of the folder directly from the user through the command line and then uses the os.listdir() function to retrieve a list of files in that folder. The user needs to know the exact path and enter it correctly, which may not be the most user-friendly method, especially for non-technical users.

Method 2: Using tkinter File Dialog

The tkinter library includes file dialog utilities that can provide a graphical interface for folder selection. This approach enhances user experience by offering a familiar and interactive way to navigate the filesystem and select a directory.

Here’s an example:

import tkinter as tk
from tkinter import filedialog

root = tk.Tk()
root.withdraw()  # Hide the main window

folder_path = filedialog.askdirectory()

print("Selected folder:", folder_path)

Output: The path of the selected folder.

This snippet makes use of the askdirectory function from the tkinter library’s filedialog module, providing a UI for directory selection. It is a user-friendly approach as it does not require the user to type a path; however, it requires the tkinter library, which might not be installed by default in some Python environments.

Method 3: Utilizing pathlib with input

The modern pathlib module abstracts paths into an object-oriented hierarchy, making path manipulations more intuitive. In this method, the power of pathlib is combined with the simplicity of input to manually select a directory and list its contents.

Here’s an example:

from pathlib import Path

folder_path = Path(input("Please enter the path of your folder: "))
file_list = [file for file in folder_path.iterdir() if file.is_file()]

print("Files in the selected folder:")

Output: A list of the Path objects of the files in the selected folder.

Using Path.iterdir(), this approach filters out directories and only lists files. The pathlib module can make path manipulations easier and more readable but still requires users to input the path accurately.

Method 4: Implementing os.walk

The os.walk function is a generator that navigates the directory tree and retrieves the file paths. This method provides an automatic way to read files from a user-defined base folder, including files in subdirectories.

Here’s an example:

import os

folder_path = input("Please enter the path of your folder: ")

file_paths = []
for root, dirs, files in os.walk(folder_path):
    for file in files:
        file_paths.append(os.path.join(root, file))

print("Files in the selected folder and subfolders:")

Output: A list of file paths in the selected directory and all subdirectories.

This code uses os.walk() to walk through the directory tree and compile a list of file paths. This is useful when the files are in different subdirectories within a common base directory. Like the os.listdir() method, the user must then properly input the base folder path.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using glob with Wildcards

For quick and simple file listing including pattern matching, the glob module provides a way to specify file patterns (using wildcards) directly in folder pathsβ€”useful for when you want files of a certain type from the selected directory.

Here’s an example:

import glob

folder_path = input("Please enter the path of your folder: ")
file_paths = glob.glob(f"{folder_path}/*")

print("Files and directories directly under the selected folder:")

Output: A list of files and directories that match the wildcard pattern in the selected directory.

This example uses glob.glob() to generate file paths based on a pattern. It’s straightforward and can be handy for filtering specific file types by modifying the wildcard pattern, though it won’t recursively search through subdirectories.


  • Method 1: os and input. Strengths: No additional libraries needed; platform-independent. Weaknesses: Requires user to know and enter correct path.
  • Method 2: tkinter File Dialog. Strengths: User-friendly graphical interface. Weaknesses: Requires tkinter; not installed by default on some systems.
  • Method 3: pathlib with input. Strengths: Easier path manipulation; modern API. Weaknesses: User input still needed; not as interactive as file dialogs.
  • Method 4: os.walk. Strengths: Recursive directory traversal; automatic. Weaknesses: Can be complex for large directory trees; user input required for base path.
  • Bonus Method 5: glob with Wildcards. Strengths: Pattern matching capabilities; very concise. Weaknesses: No recursive search; user must specify patterns.