File::chdir - a more sensible way to change directories


This documentation describes version 0.1002.


   use File::chdir;
   $CWD = "/foo/bar";     # now in /foo/bar
       local $CWD = "/moo/baz";  # now in /moo/baz
   # still in /foo/bar!


Perl's chdir() has the unfortunate problem of being very, very, very global. If any part of your program calls chdir() or if any library you use calls chdir(), it changes the current working directory for the whole program.

This sucks.

File::chdir gives you an alternative, $CWD and @CWD. These two variables combine all the power of chdir(), File::Spec and Cwd.


Use the $CWD variable instead of chdir() and Cwd.

     use File::chdir;
     $CWD = $dir;  # just like chdir($dir)!
     print $CWD;   # prints the current working directory

It can be localized, and it does the right thing.

     $CWD = "/foo";      # it's /foo out here.
         local $CWD = "/bar";  # /bar in here
     # still /foo out here!

$CWD always returns the absolute path in the native form for the operating system.

$CWD and normal chdir() work together just fine.


@CWD represents the current working directory as an array, each directory in the path is an element of the array. This can often make the directory easier to manipulate, and you don't have to fumble with File::Spec->splitpath and File::Spec->catdir to make portable code.

   # Similar to chdir("/usr/local/src/perl")
   @CWD = qw(usr local src perl);

pop, push, shift, unshift and splice all work. pop and push are probably the most useful.

   pop @CWD;                 # same as chdir(File::Spec->updir)
   push @CWD, 'some_dir'     # same as chdir('some_dir')

@CWD and $CWD both work fine together.

NOTE Due to a perl bug you can't localize @CWD. See "BUGS and" for a work around.


(We omit the use File::chdir from these examples for terseness)

Here's $CWD instead of chdir():

     $CWD = 'foo';           # chdir('foo')

and now instead of Cwd.

     print $CWD;             # use Cwd;  print Cwd::abs_path

you can even do zsh style cd foo bar

     $CWD = '/usr/local/foo';
     $CWD =~ s/usr/var/;

if you want to localize that, make sure you get the parens right

         (local $CWD) =~ s/usr/var/;

It's most useful for writing polite subroutines which don't leave the program in some strange directory:

     sub foo {
         local $CWD = 'some/other/dir'; your work...

which is much simpler than the equivalent:

     sub foo {
         use Cwd;
         my $orig_dir = Cwd::abs_path;
  your work...

@CWD comes in handy when you want to start moving up and down the directory hierarchy in a cross-platform manner without having to use File::Spec.

     pop @CWD;                   # chdir(File::Spec->updir);
     push @CWD, 'some', 'dir'    # chdir(File::Spec->catdir(qw(some dir)));

You can easily change your parent directory:

     # chdir from /some/dir/bar/moo to /some/dir/foo/moo
     $CWD[-2] = 'foo';


Assigning to @CWD calls chdir() for each element

     @CWD = qw/a b c d/;

Internally, Perl clears @CWD and assigns each element in turn. Thus, this code above will do this:

     chdir 'a';
     chdir 'a/b';
     chdir 'a/b/c';
     chdir 'a/b/c/d';

Generally, avoid assigning to @CWD and just use push and pop instead.

local @CWD does not work.

local @CWD> will not localize @CWD. This is a bug in Perl, you can't localize tied arrays. As a work around localizing $CWD will effectively localize @CWD.

         local $CWD;
         pop @CWD;

Volumes not handled

There is currently no way to change the current volume via File::chdir.


$CWD returns the current directory using native path separators, i.e. \ on Win32. This ensures that $CWD will compare correctly with directories created using File::Spec. For example:

     my $working_dir = File::Spec->catdir( $CWD, "foo" );
     $CWD = $working_dir;
     is( $CWD, $working_dir, "back to original working_dir?" );

Deleting the last item of @CWD will act like a pop. Deleting from the middle will throw an exception.

     delete @CWD[-1]; # OK
     delete @CWD[-2]; # Dies

What should %CWD do? Something with volumes?

     # chdir to C:\Program Files\Sierra\Half Life ?
     $CWD{C} = '\\Program Files\\Sierra\\Half Life';


If an error is encountered when changing $CWD or @CWD, one of the following exceptions will be thrown:

  • Can't delete except at the end of @CWD

  • Failed to change directory to '$dir'


Please report any bugs or feature using the CPAN Request Tracker. Bugs can be submitted through the web interface at

When submitting a bug or request, please include a test-file or a patch to an existing test-file that illustrates the bug or desired feature.


  • Michael G Schwern <> (original author)

  • David A Golden <> (current maintainer)


Copyright 2001-2003 by Michael G Schwern <>. Portions copyright 2006-2007 by David A Golden <>.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.



Michael wanted local chdir to work. p5p didn't. But it wasn't over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!

Abigail and/or Bryan Warnock suggested the $CWD thing (Michael forgets which). They were right.

The chdir() override was eliminated in 0.04.

David became co-maintainer with 0.06_01 to fix some chronic Win32 path bugs.

As of 0.08, if changing $CWD or @CWD fails to change the directory, an error will be thrown.


File::pushd, File::Spec, Cwd, "chdir" in perlfunc, "Animal House"