How To Check If A File or Directory Exists in Ruby

2 minute read

Even though JavaScript (and node.js!) is/are my first programming language love(s)1, I’ve been trying to hone my skills in Ruby and Python to better merit the whole ‘full-stack’ title thing. Also because there are some really great things that python and ruby are great for that JavaScript isn’t (vice-versa for each language, really).

So, I’ll occasionally be sharing some small tips/tricks I pick up along the way in these other realms. One I found helpful was how to effectively check for a file’s existence and some of the gotchas that come along with the solutions.


If you’ve ever worked with IO (especially reading/writing files), you’ll probably agree that it tends to be a good idea to ensure a file, path, directory, or whatever else exists before trying to use it in your software. The following are a few ways you can check to ensure that a file or directory exists using Ruby.


File.exist?(<filename || IO object>), -> true or false

This method essentially answers whether the stat() or fstat() system calls are successful. So, you have to be careful in what assumptions you make about this method — it will return true for directories.


Deprecated! Don’t forget to toss out that extra s!


File.file?(<file || IO object>), -> true or false

Returns true if the named file exists and is a regular file. file can be an IO object. If the file argument is a symbolic link, it will resolve the symbolic link and use the file referenced by the link.

# `file?` will only return `true` for files, not directories
=> false
=> true

directory?(file_name), -> true or false

Returns true if the named file is a directory, or a symlink that points at a directory, and false otherwise. As usual, file_name can be an IO object.

So, if you want to check for a file, you should probably use File.file?(). Otherwise, you’ll probably want to stick with

  1. Our relationship is very solid now, but initially everything was very confusing due to some ducktyping and some prototypal and/or delegative misunderstanding [return]
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