Trav::Dir - Practical traversing of directories


    use FindBin '$Bin';
    use Trav::Dir;
    my $o = Trav::Dir->new (
        # Don't traverse directories matching these patterns
        no_trav => qr!/(\.git|xt|blib)$!,
        # Reject files matching this pattern
        rejfile => qr!~$|MYMETA|\.tar\.gz!,
        # Don't add directories to @files
        no_dir => 1,
    my @files;
    chdir "$Bin/..";
    $o->find_files (".", \@files);
    for (sort @files) {
        print "$_\n";

produces output


(This example is included as in the distribution.)


This documents version 0.02 of Trav-Dir corresponding to git commit bfcab10e35a95164c58faf5bd863cc47bee06ee8 released on Sun Feb 21 13:46:36 2021 +0900.


Traverse directories and make a list of files. Replacement for "File::Find".



    $o->find_files ($dir, \@files);

Traverse $dir and its subdirectories, and list all the files found into @files. find_files first makes a list of the files in $dir, then it goes through the list and recursively calls itself on directories, and then stores the files into @files. If the user provides a callback in "new", it also calls the user callback on each file.

File names are fully qualified, in other words the file names in @files include the file's directory.

You can omit the second argument, @files, and just use a "callback" instead.

    my $o = Trav::Dir->new (callback => \& my_function);
    $o->find_files ($dir);

See "callback".

The list of files @files is deliberately not made a return value so that you can run find_files over a list of directories.

    for my $dir (@dirs) {
        $td->find_files ($dir, \@files);

New files are added to the end of @files using push.

If both callback and @files are omitted, find_files prints a warning and returns, since there is nothing to do. You might see this warning if you accidentally omit the slash before @files like this:

    use Trav::Dir;
    my $o = Trav::Dir->new ();
    my @files;
    $o->find_files (".", @files);

produces output

    No file list and no callback at /usr/home/ben/projects/trav-dir/examples/ line 7.

(This example is included as in the distribution.)

Symbolic links (files which return a true value with the -l test) are not traversed or recorded. See "No support for symbolic links" for a discussion.

"find_files" was originally the name of a subroutine in the script which became Trav::Dir.


    my $o = Trav::Dir->new (%options);

Create a new Trav::Dir object. There are no mandatory options. The options are as follows:

    Trav::Dir->new (callback => \& call_me);

A subroutine to call back when each file is found, similar to the wanted routine of "File::Find". It is called like this

    &callback ($data, $file);

Here $file is the full path of the file and $data is the data you pass with "data".

Directories are also sent to your callback. If you don't want directories, use the "no_dir" option.

    Trav::Dir->new (data => \%my_structure);

A data item to pass to callbacks. See "callback" and "preprocess" for the calling conventions.

    Trav::Dir->new (maxsize => 200_000);

Maximum file size to consider. If left undefined it is not used. If defined, if the file under consideration is bigger than this, the file is skipped. This test is not applied to directories.

This option was implemented to assist file search indexing by rejecting very large files. In the file search case the largest text file I need to search over is a C file of 118,090 bytes, so I set this to 200,000 to quickly reject larger files. Dealing with binary files and so on is handled by the callback or by the indexing application which uses the list of files.

    Trav::Dir->new (minsize => 10);

Minimum file size to consider. If left undefined it is not used. If defined, if the file under consideration is smaller than this, the file is skipped. This test is not applied to directories.

This option was implemented to assist a file search indexing program by rejecting very small files. In the case of the file search it is set to 10 so that files with less than 10 bytes are not indexed at all.

    Trav::Dir->new (no_dir => 1);

Don't include directories in the results sent to "callback" or included in @files.

This option was implemented to assist a file search indexing program by rejecting directories.

    Trav::Dir->new (no_trav => qr!\.git\b!);

Regex to reject directories to traverse. If a directory matches this regex, it is not traversed at all, and its subdirectories are not traversed or even seen.

This option was implemented for an incremental backup system to stop going into directories containing files which didn't need to be backed up, a file search indexing system for stopping going into directories containing files which don't need to be indexed, such as computer-generated HTML files or old web server log files, and a project status checking script which checks whether projects have uncommitted changes. For example for the project status checking script, the code looks like this:

    my $td = Trav::Dir->new (
        only => qr!^\.git$!,
        no_trav => qr!/(?:

To see what projects there are, it looks for a file called .git, but to save time it doesn't go into directories like .git or blib or some other patterns where there are lots of files we are sure are not relevant, and it doesn't go into the cancelled project directory, since we don't care about whether those projects are up to date.

    Trav::Dir->new (only => qr!.*\.html$!);

Regex to accept only files which match it. This is applied to the file name without the directory, so for example if you want to find files starting with a pattern like apple-touch-icon.*, you can use ^ to match the beginning of the file name:

    Trav::Dir->new (only => qr!^apple-touch-icon.*!);

This option was implemented to assist searching for certain types of file.

For example the following script finds files called hanzierrorlog under a directory /mount/backup/incremental/2019, and then removes them when they are found with a callback named found:

    my $td = Trav::Dir->new (
        only => qr!hanzierrorlog!,
        callback => \& found,
    $td->find_files ('/mount/backup/incremental/2019');
    sub found
        my (undef, $file) = @_;
        unlink $file or warn "Failed to unlink $file: $!";
    Trav::Dir->new (preprocess => \& my_function);

A function which preprocesses the list of files of a directory. It is called in the form

    preprocess ($data, $dir, \@files);

where $data is what is specified with "data", $dir is the directory of the files, and @files is the list of files in that directory.

Trav::Dir does not call chdir, but the file names in @files are not qualified, that is they do not contain the directory of the file, $dir.

To alter what files are processed, alter the reference you get, e.g. to stop processing of the directory use

    @$files = ();

This may change in a future version of the module.

This option was implemented as a substitute for the preprocess method of "File::Find" when I replaced its use by use of Trav::Dir, for an incremental backup system, to prevent the backup system going into directories flagged not to be backed up.

    Trav::Dir->new (rejfile => qr!~$!);

Regex for rejecting files. If a file matches this regex it is never sent to the callback specified with "callback". The regex is applied to the file without the directory name.

This was implemented for things such as the above example, where ~ is the character used by Emacs editor backups, to prevent old editor backup files from being indexed by a search system.

    Trav::Dir->new (verbose => 1);

Print a lot of messages about how the files are being processed.



There are a number of other CPAN modules for going into directories and making a list of files.


This is a Perl version of the Unix "find" utility. It is part of the Perl core so is installed with Perl by default.

Alternatives to File::Find

These modules offer alternatives to File::Find but are not based on it.




"Object oriented directory tree traverser"


"An object oriented File::Find replacement"


"walk a directory structure"


"Iterative, recursive file finder with Path::Class"

File::Find extensions

These extend "File::Find" in various ways.


"find collisions in filenames, differing only in case"


"Combines simpler File::Find interface with support for regular expression search criteria."


"Alternative interface to File::Find"

It features very comprehensive tests for different kinds of files which you can chain together to get lists of files.


"Fully UTF-8 aware File::Find"

It forces the file names from bytes to characters.

File::Find assistants

These help you to use "File::Find".


"functions you can use with File::Find"


"nice wrapper for File::Find ala find"

It writes wanted subroutines for File::Find.


"More obvious wrapper around File::Find"


"Perform different actions on files based on file name."


The documentation doesn't make it very clear what this does. To get a random file using Trav::Dir, try the following:

    # $Bin is the directory of our script itself.
    use FindBin '$Bin';
    use Trav::Dir;
    # A list of files.
    my @files;
    # The Trav::Dir object.
    my $o = Trav::Dir->new ();
    # Tell the Trav::Dir object to find all the files under the above directory.
    $o->find_files ("$Bin/..", \@files);
    # This is how Perl gets the lengths of arrays.
    # See perldoc -f scalar.
    my $nfiles = scalar (@files);
    # "rand(n)" is always < n, and int truncates the fractional part.
    # See perldoc -f rand, perldoc -f int.
    my $random = int (rand ($nfiles)); 
    # At last we have our random file.
    print $files[$random];

produces output


(This example is included as in the distribution.)

Other ways to do the same thing

If you need to find a file with a certain name, on a Unix system, the find facility may be useful, as is the locate facility. For example to find all "coredumps", one can use

    my @core = `locate ".core"`;

locate is usually run at certain times of the day by the operating system so it is not necessarily completely up to date.

grep can be quite handy too to eliminate bad patterns. In my case I have a giant number of files under an incremental backup directory, so I use

    my @junk = `locate guff | grep -v incremental`;
    for my $file (@junk) {
        chomp $file;
        print "$file\n";

to find files with the letters "guff" in their names.


Trav::Dir was created as an alternative to "File::Find" and the other modules on CPAN. I very strongly disliked File::Find for quite a long time, but also found the alternatives like File::Find::Rule excessively complicated, so I would end up writing various scripts to traverse directories, leading to duplication of efforts. I eventually decided not to write any more duplicate code but make a single module which would serve a practical purpose.

In my opinion this module has the following merits:

No need for closures or global variables

There are all kinds of articles, stackoverflow, and perlmonks questions, and several CPAN modules about how to write closures and wanted functions for File::Find, but these are working around a deficiency of the module.

Trav::Dir eliminates the need for closures or global variables by allowing the user to supply a "data" argument to "new".

No pseudo-global variables

For some reason or another, File::Find communicates with the user routine it calls wanted using various pseudo-global variables like $File::Find::name. These are annoying to repeatedly type and are also completely unnecessary.

Trav::Dir uses standard Perl subroutine arguments in callbacks. See "callback" and "preprocess".


File::Find has no facility to match directories or files against patterns. Instead each and every directory and file must be handled by a user callback, and the user callback must interact with File::Find using lengthy fully-qualified arguments like $File::Find::prune. Stopping File::Find from wading through unwanted directories requires the user to write lots of annoying, fiddly code involving closures and global variables and File::Find's silly $File::Find::* pseudo-global variables, to prevent it from doing so.

Trav::Dir greatly simplifies the selection of files by allowing regex arguments like "no_trav", "only" and "rejfile" to sort through directories and file names.

Does not call chdir

File::Find insists on doing chdir into each and every directory it examines. In practice it is very rare that one actually needs to change into a directory.

Trav::Dir does not call chdir. The file name passed to the callback is fully-qualified. It is a very simple matter to remove the directory from the file name if necessary.

Quite a large chunk of File::Find's documentation is about its endless ways of handling symbolic links, and yet it is very rare that one needs to do this task.

Trav::Dir avoids having to make any number of contortions by not following symbolic links. I have never needed to follow a symbolic link when traversing a directory of files.

No needless complexity

In designing this module I've made something which does the practical task of going through directories and looking at the files. In the rare cases that a complicated task such as sorting the list of files before examining them, checking file permissions, or postprocessing a directory needs to be carried out, it can be handled by the callback function, so I deliberately haven't included complex facilities like the extraordinarily complicated handling of symbolic links in File::Find, or the huge number of rules in "File::Find::Rule". All of these things can be done much more simply and without reinventing the wheel by writing a suitable callback function.


File::Find's documentation includes wrong statements, undocumented variables like $File::Find::prune, and oddities like calling the user callback wanted and then writing that the subroutine is misnamed, or having both a CAVEAT section containing two caveats, followed by a BUGS AND CAVEATS section containing only one caveat, and no bugs.

I've reported some of them to the Perl bug list. I've also submitted a pull request to correct some of the problems. Please see there for details if you would like to contribute.

Prior to creating this module I was regularly using "File::Find" and I had also used "File::Find::Rule", as well as using code such as

    my $pm = `find . -name *.pm`;
    my @pm = split /\n/, $pm;

The bulk of Trav::Dir's code was taken from scripts written as an alternative to either File::Find and friends or the above kinds of things. The scripts had been in use for several years in various places. The random-looking names of the options to "new" are just the names from the old scripts.

Since starting this module in February 2021, I've been able to replace all uses of File::Find, backticks, and the other scripts, with Trav::Dir.


Ben Bullock, <>


This package and associated files are copyright (C) 2021 Ben Bullock.

You can use, copy, modify and redistribute this package and associated files under the Perl Artistic Licence or the GNU General Public Licence.