5 Best Ways to Find the Resolved Unix Style Path in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When working with file systems on Unix-like operating systems, it’s common to deal with relative and absolute pathnames. In Python programming, retrieving a Unix style path that resolves all the symbolic links, dot (.) and dot-dot (..) components to their absolute path without any redundacies can be crucial for path manipulation and file access. For example, given an input like "./../somefolder/../file.txt", the desired output would be "/absolute/path/to/file.txt".

Method 1: Using os.path.abspath()

The os.path.abspath() method in Python’s standard library returns a normalized absolutized version of the pathname path. This method converts a relative path to an absolute one by joining it with the current working directory and then normalizing it.

Here’s an example:

import os

relative_path = "./../somefolder/../file.txt"
resolved_path = os.path.abspath(relative_path)


Output: /absolute/path/to/file.txt

This code first imports the os module, which provides a portable way of using operating system dependent functionality. The os.path.abspath() function derives an absolute pathname by merging the given relative path with the current working directory and then resolving any symbolic links, dot and dot-dot components.

Method 2: Using os.path.realpath()

The os.path.realpath() function in Python’s standard os library returns the canonical path of the specified filename, eliminating any symbolic links encountered in the path. It is slightly different from os.path.abspath() because it resolves symbolic links which makes it a more complete solution.

Here’s an example:

import os

path_with_symlinks = "/var/log//../tmp/symlink/../file.log"
resolved_path = os.path.realpath(path_with_symlinks)


Output: /var/tmp/file.log

In this code snippet, os.path.realpath() is used to resolve symbolic links, parent directory references (..), and any redundant separators. The result is the actual path the system uses, which excludes symbolic links and relative references.

Method 3: Using the pathlib Module

Python 3 introduced the pathlib module, which provides an object-oriented interface for handling filesystem paths. The Path.resolve() method from the pathlib module can be used to resolve a path to its absolute, canonical form, thereby following symbolic links.

Here’s an example:

from pathlib import Path

path_to_resolve = Path("./../../bin/script.sh")
resolved_path = path_to_resolve.resolve()


Output: /usr/bin/script.sh

The code utilizes Path.resolve() method from the pathlib module to convert the provided path to its absolute, canonical form. It also resolves any symlinks and removes unnecessary dot (.) and dot-dot (..) components.

Method 4: Custom Path Resolver Function

To have more control over the resolution process, you can write a custom function to resolve paths. This involves manually processing the path, segment by segment, handling the dot (.) and dot-dot (..) components, and any custom rules you may wish to apply.

Here’s an example:

def resolve_unix_path(path):
    parts = []
    for part in path.split('/'):
        if part == '..':
            if parts:
        elif part and part != '.':
    return '/' + '/'.join(parts)


Output: /home/bin/tool

The custom function resolve_unix_path splits the path by the separator and handles each component, pushing to a list when it’s a valid directory name and popping the last one if it encounters ... This doesn’t handle symbolic links but is more customizable.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using List Comprehension

For a concise piece of code, you can use list comprehension to resolve a Unix style path. This approach is similar to the custom function written in Method 4 but expressed in a single line of code.

Here’s an example:

path = "home/./user//bin/../tool"
resolved_path = '/' + '/'.join(part for part in path.split('/') if part not in ['', '.', '..'])


Output: /home/user/tool

The one-liner list comprehension iterates over each part of the path and includes it in the new list if it’s not empty or equivalent to . or ... This is a quick and easy way to normalize paths without external functions.


  • Method 1: os.path.abspath(). Quick and simple. May not resolve symlink paths.
  • Method 2: os.path.realpath(). Resolves symlinks and relative components. Can be slower than abspath() due to symlink resolution.
  • Method 3: pathlib.Path.resolve(). Modern, object-oriented approach. It requires Python 3 and is very readable.
  • Method 4: Custom Path Resolver Function. Completely customizable function. It can be complex and must be thoroughly tested.
  • Method 5: Using List Comprehension. Quick, easy, and concise. It may not be as clear or maintainable for complex logic.