FilePaths.jl and FilePathsBase.jl have gone through several design iterations over the years. To help get potential contributors up-to-speed, we'll cover several background points and design choices. Whenever possible, we'll reference existing resources (e.g., GitHub issues, blog posts, documentation, software packages) for further reading.

Filesystem Abstractions

While filesystems themselves are abstractions for data storage, many programming languages provide APIs for writing generic/cross-platform software. Typically, these abstractions can be broken down into string or typed based solutions.

String APIs:

This approach tends to be simpler and only requires adding utility methods for interacting with filesystems. Unfortunately, any operations require significant string manipulation to work, and it often cannot be extended for remote filesystems (e.g., S3, FTP, HTTP). Enforcing path validity becomes difficult when any string operation can be applied to the path type (e.g., join(prefix, segments...) vs joinpath(prefix, segments...)).

Typed APIs:

The primary idea is that a filesystem path is just a sequence of path segments, and so very few path operations overlap with string operations. For example, you're unlikely to call string functions like join(...), chomp(...), eachline(...), match(regex, ...) or parse(Float64, ...) with a filesystem path. Further, differentiating strings and paths allows us to define different equality rules and dispatch behaviour on filepaths in our APIs. Finally, by defining a common API for all AbstractPaths, we can write generic functions that work with PosixPaths, WindowsPaths, S3Paths, FTPPaths, etc.

Path Types

In FilePathsBase.jl, file paths are first and foremost a type that wraps a tuple of strings, representing path segments. Most path types will also include a root, drive and separator. Concrete path types should either directly subtype AbstractPath or in the case of local filesystems (e.g., PosixPath, WindowsPath) from SystemPath, as shown in the diagram below.


Notice that our AbstractPath type no longer subtypes AbstractString like some other libraries. We chose drop string subtyping because not all AbstractString operations make sense on paths, and even more seem like they should perform a fundamentally different operation as mentioned above. Similar points have been made for why pathlib.Path doesn't inherit from str in Python.