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Cross-platform way of getting temp directory in Python

Posted by: admin November 1, 2017 Leave a comment


Is there a cross-platform way of getting the path to the temp directory in Python 2.6?

For example, under Linux that would be /tmp, while under XP C:\Documents and settings\[user]\Application settings\Temp.



That would be the tempfile module.

It has functions to get the temporary directory, and also has some shortcuts to create temporary files and directories in it, either named or unnamed.


import tempfile

print tempfile.gettempdir() # prints the current temporary directory

f = tempfile.TemporaryFile()
f.write('something on temporaryfile')
f.seek(0) # return to beginning of file
print f.read() # reads data back from the file
f.close() # temporary file is automatically deleted here

For completeness, here’s how it searches for the temporary directory, according to the documentation:

  1. The directory named by the TMPDIR environment variable.
  2. The directory named by the TEMP environment variable.
  3. The directory named by the TMP environment variable.
  4. A platform-specific location:
    • On RiscOS, the directory named by the Wimp$ScrapDir environment variable.
    • On Windows, the directories C:\TEMP, C:\TMP, \TEMP, and \TMP, in that order.
    • On all other platforms, the directories /tmp, /var/tmp, and /usr/tmp, in that order.
  5. As a last resort, the current working directory.

This should do what you want:

print tempfile.gettempdir()

For me on my Windows box, I get:


and on my Linux box I get:



Taking the important bit from @nosklo’s answer and adding a semi-private sandbox dir:

import os
from tempfile import gettempdir
tmp = os.path.join(gettempdir(), '.{}'.format(hash(os.times())))

That way you can easily clean up after yourself when you are done (for privacy, resources, security, whatever) with:

from shutil import rmtree
rmtree(tmp, ignore_errors=True)

This is similar to what applications like Google Chrome and Linux systemd do. They just use a shorter hex hash and an app-specific prefix to “advertise” their presence.


I use:

import platform
import tempfile

tempdir = '/tmp' if platform.system() == 'Darwin' else tempfile.gettempdir()

This is because on MacOS, i.e. Darwin, tempfile.gettempdir() and os.getenv('TMPDIR') return a value such as '/var/folders/nj/269977hs0_96bttwj2gs_jhhp48z54/T'; it is one that I do not want!