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Java NIO Files

Jakob Jenkov
Last update: 2015-04-15

The Java NIO Files class (java.nio.file.Files) provides several methods for manipulating files in the file system. This Java NIO Files tutorial will cover the most commonly used of these methods. The Files class contains many methods, so check the JavaDoc too, if you need a method that is not described here. The Files class just might have a method for it still.

The java.nio.file.Files class works with java.nio.file.Path instances, so you need to understand the Path class before you can work with the Files class.

Files.exists()

The Files.exists() method checks if a given Path exists in the file system.

It is possible to create Path instances that do not exist in the file system. For instance, if you plan to create a new directory, you would first create the corresponding Path instance, and then create the directory.

Since Path instances may or may not point to paths that exist in the file system, you can use the Files.exists() method to determine if they do (in case you need to check that).

Here is a Java Files.exists() example:

Path path = Paths.get("data/logging.properties");

boolean pathExists =
        Files.exists(path,
            new LinkOption[]{ LinkOption.NOFOLLOW_LINKS});

This example first creates a Path instance pointing to the path we want to check if exists or not. Second, the example calls the Files.exists() method with the Path instance as the first parameter.

Notice the second parameter of the Files.exists() method. This parameter is an array of options that influence how the Files.exists() determines if the path exists or not. In this example above the array contains the LinkOption.NOFOLLOW_LINKS which means that the Files.exists() method should not follow symbolic links in the file system to determine if the path exists.

Files.createDirectory()

The Files.createDirectory() method creates a new directory from a Path instance. Here is a Java Files.createDirectory() example:

Path path = Paths.get("data/subdir");

try {
    Path newDir = Files.createDirectory(path);
} catch(FileAlreadyExistsException e){
    // the directory already exists.
} catch (IOException e) {
    //something else went wrong
    e.printStackTrace();
}

The first line creates the Path instance that represents the directory to create. Inside the try-catch block the Files.createDirectory() method is called with the path as parameter. If creating the directory succeeds, a Path instance is returned which points to the newly created path.

If the directory already exists, a java.nio.file.FileAlreadyExistsException will be thrown. If something else goes wrong, an IOException may get thrown. For instance, if the parent directory of the desired, new directory does not exist, an IOException may get thrown. The parent directory is the directory in which you want to create the new directory. Thus, it means the parent directory of the new directory.

Files.copy()

The Files.copy() method copies a file from one path to another. Here is a Java NIO Files.copy() example:

Path sourcePath      = Paths.get("data/logging.properties");
Path destinationPath = Paths.get("data/logging-copy.properties");

try {
    Files.copy(sourcePath, destinationPath);
} catch(FileAlreadyExistsException e) {
    //destination file already exists
} catch (IOException e) {
    //something else went wrong
    e.printStackTrace();
}

First the example creates a source and destination Path instance. Then the example calls Files.copy(), passing the two Path instances as parameters. This will result in the file referenced by the source path to be copied to the file referenced by the destination path.

If the destination file already exists, a java.nio.file.FileAlreadyExistsException is thrown. If something else goes wrong, an IOException will be thrown. For instance, if the directory to copy the file to does not exist, an IOException will be thrown.

Overwriting Existing Files

It is possible to force the Files.copy() to overwrite an existing file. Here an example showing how to overwrite an existing file using Files.copy():

Path sourcePath      = Paths.get("data/logging.properties");
Path destinationPath = Paths.get("data/logging-copy.properties");

try {
    Files.copy(sourcePath, destinationPath,
            StandardCopyOption.REPLACE_EXISTING);
} catch(FileAlreadyExistsException e) {
    //destination file already exists
} catch (IOException e) {
    //something else went wrong
    e.printStackTrace();
}

Notice the third parameter to the Files.copy() method. This parameter instructs the copy() method to overwrite an existing file if the destination file already exists.

Files.move()

The Java NIO Files class also contains a function for moving files from one path to another. Moving a file is the same as renaming it, except moving a file can both move it to a different directory and change its name in the same operation. Yes, the java.io.File class could also do that with its renameTo() method, but now you have the file move functionality in the java.nio.file.Files class too.

Here is a Java Files.move() example:

Path sourcePath      = Paths.get("data/logging-copy.properties");
Path destinationPath = Paths.get("data/subdir/logging-moved.properties");

try {
    Files.move(sourcePath, destinationPath,
            StandardCopyOption.REPLACE_EXISTING);
} catch (IOException e) {
    //moving file failed.
    e.printStackTrace();
}

First the source path and destination path are created. The source path points to the file to move, and the destination path points to where the file should be moved to. Then the Files.move() method is called. This results in the file being moved.

Notice the third parameter passed to Files.move() . This parameter tells the Files.move() method to overwrite any existing file at the destination path. This parameter is actually optional.

The Files.move() method may throw an IOException if moving the file fails. For instance, if a file already exists at the destination path, and you have left out the StandardCopyOption.REPLACE_EXISTING option, or if the file to move does not exist etc.

Files.delete()

The Files.delete() method can delete a file or directory. Here is a Java Files.delete() example:

Path path = Paths.get("data/subdir/logging-moved.properties");

try {
    Files.delete(path);
} catch (IOException e) {
    //deleting file failed
    e.printStackTrace();
}

First the Path pointing to the file to delete is created. Second the Files.delete() method is called. If the Files.delete() fails to delete the file for some reason (e.g. the file or directory does not exist), an IOException is thrown.

Files.walkFileTree()

The Files.walkFileTree() method contains functionality for traversing a directory tree recursively. The walkFileTree() method takes a Path instance and a FileVisitor as parameters. The Path instance points to the directory you want to traverse. The FileVisitor is called during traversion.

Before I explain how the traversal works, here is first the FileVisitor interface:

public interface FileVisitor {

    public FileVisitResult preVisitDirectory(
        Path dir, BasicFileAttributes attrs) throws IOException;

    public FileVisitResult visitFile(
        Path file, BasicFileAttributes attrs) throws IOException;

    public FileVisitResult visitFileFailed(
        Path file, IOException exc) throws IOException;

    public FileVisitResult postVisitDirectory(
        Path dir, IOException exc) throws IOException {

}

You have to implement the FileVisitor interface yourself, and pass an instance of your implementation to the walkFileTree() method. Each method of your FileVisitor implementation will get called at different times during the directory traversal. If you do not need to hook into all of these methods, you can extend the SimpleFileVisitor class, which contains default implementations of all methods in the FileVisitor interface.

Here is a walkFileTree() example:

Files.walkFileTree(path, new FileVisitor<Path>() {
  @Override
  public FileVisitResult preVisitDirectory(Path dir, BasicFileAttributes attrs) throws IOException {
    System.out.println("pre visit dir:" + dir);
    return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
  }

  @Override
  public FileVisitResult visitFile(Path file, BasicFileAttributes attrs) throws IOException {
    System.out.println("visit file: " + file);
    return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
  }

  @Override
  public FileVisitResult visitFileFailed(Path file, IOException exc) throws IOException {
    System.out.println("visit file failed: " + file);
    return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
  }

  @Override
  public FileVisitResult postVisitDirectory(Path dir, IOException exc) throws IOException {
    System.out.println("post visit directory: " + dir);
    return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
  }
});

Each of the methods in the FileVisitor implementation gets called at different times during traversal:

The preVisitDirectory() method is called just before visiting any directory. The postVisitDirectory() method is called just after visiting a directory.

The visitFile() mehtod is called for every file visited during the file walk. It is not called for directories - only files. The visitFileFailed() method is called in case visiting a file fails. For instance, if you do not have the right permissions, or something else goes wrong.

Each of the four methods return a FileVisitResult enum instance. The FileVisitResult enum contains the following four options:

  • CONTINUE
  • TERMINATE
  • SKIP_SIBLINGS
  • SKIP_SUBTREE

By returning one of these values the called method can decide how the file walk should continue.

CONTINUE means that the file walk should continue as normal.

TERMINATE means that the file walk should terminate now.

SKIP_SIBLINGS means that the file walk should continue but without visiting any siblings of this file or directory.

SKIP_SUBTREE means that the file walk should continue but without visiting the entries in this directory. This value only has a function if returned from preVisitDirectory(). If returned from any other methods it will be interpreted as a CONTINUE.

Searching For Files

Here is a walkFileTree() that extends SimpleFileVisitor to look for a file named README.txt :

Path rootPath = Paths.get("data");
String fileToFind = File.separator + "README.txt";

try {
  Files.walkFileTree(rootPath, new SimpleFileVisitor<Path>() {
    
    @Override
    public FileVisitResult visitFile(Path file, BasicFileAttributes attrs) throws IOException {
      String fileString = file.toAbsolutePath().toString();
      //System.out.println("pathString = " + fileString);

      if(fileString.endsWith(fileToFind)){
        System.out.println("file found at path: " + file.toAbsolutePath());
        return FileVisitResult.TERMINATE;
      }
      return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
    }
  });
} catch(IOException e){
    e.printStackTrace();
}

Deleting Directories Recursively

The Files.walkFileTree() can also be used to delete a directory with all files and subdirectories inside it. The Files.delete() method will only delete a directory if it is empty. By walking through all directories and deleting all files (inside visitFile()) in each directory, and afterwards delete the directory itself (inside postVisitDirectory()) you can delete a directory with all subdirectories and files. Here is a recursive directory deletion example:

Path rootPath = Paths.get("data/to-delete");

try {
  Files.walkFileTree(rootPath, new SimpleFileVisitor<Path>() {
    @Override
    public FileVisitResult visitFile(Path file, BasicFileAttributes attrs) throws IOException {
      System.out.println("delete file: " + file.toString());
      Files.delete(file);
      return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
    }

    @Override
    public FileVisitResult postVisitDirectory(Path dir, IOException exc) throws IOException {
      Files.delete(dir);
      System.out.println("delete dir: " + dir.toString());
      return FileVisitResult.CONTINUE;
    }
  });
} catch(IOException e){
  e.printStackTrace();
}

Additional Methods in the Files Class

The java.nio.file.Files class contains many other useful functions, like functions for creating symbolic links, determining the file size, setting file permissions etc. Check out the JavaDoc for the java.nio.file.Files class for more information about these methods.

Jakob Jenkov




Copyright  Jenkov Aps
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