ServerJS/Filesystem API/A

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Proposal A, Draft 5 (in development)

The "file" module supports the File System API, providing an interface for path, directory, file, link, file stat, and file stream manipulation.

For the purpose of this documentation, "fs" is a variable name for any object that implements the File System API, including the exports of the "file" module, and objects returned by "fs.chroot(path)".

Discussion Thread.


Objects implementing the File System API, including the "file" module object, are capability bearing objects that carry and mediate authority to read and write to the underlying storage. As such, the "file" module can return other objects that implement and attenuate the File System API for sandboxing. Furthermore, streams returned by the file system object are implicitly attenuated to only give the receiver authority to manipulate the given file, without knowledge of the path on which it resides or access to references that would permit it to manipulate other parts of the file system.


The "file" module must export the following:


open(path String, mode|options)
returns a stream object that supports an appropriate interface for the given options and mode, which include reading, writing, updating, byte, character, unbuffered, buffered, and line buffered streams. More details follow in the [#Stream] section of this document.
  • path
  • mode: "rwa+bxc", or
  • options
    • mode String
    • charset String
    • read Boolean
    • write Boolean
    • append Boolean
    • update Boolean
    • binary Boolean
    • exclusive Boolean
    • canonical Boolean
read(path String, [mode|options])
opens, reads, and closes a file, returning its content.
write(path String, content String|Binary, [mode|options])
opens, writes, flushes, and closes a file with the given content. If the content is a ByteArray or ByteString, the binary mode is implied.
copy(source String, target String)
reads one file and writes another in byte mode.
move(from String, to String)
remove(path String)
rename(path String, name String)
touch(path, [mtime Date])


(TODO Should the methods in this section use "mkdir" or "makeDir" style names? discussion)

list(path String) Iterator
returns an iterator that yields the names of the entries in a directory. Throws an error if the directory is inaccessible or does not exist.
mkdir(path String)
Create a single directory specified by path. If the directory cannot be created for any reason an exception will be thrown. This includes if the parent directories of "path" are not present.
mktree(path String)
TODO Decide upon the name of this function. "mkdirs" or "mktree" or "makeTree"
Will create the directory specified by "path" including any missing parent directories.
rmdir(path String)
Removes a directory if it is empty. If it is not, or cannot be removed for another reason an exception will be thrown.
rmtree(path String)
This does its best to remove the directory "path", akin to "rm -r" on Unix or "del /s" on Windows. That is it will recursively delete all directories and files under "path".



[new] Path(path String|Path|Array, [fs FileSystem]) Path
returns a Path object that closes on a File System object and a "path" representation. The path object is a chainable shorthand for working with paths in the context of the "file" module. "Path" objects have no more or less authority to manipulate the file system than the FileSystem object that they are attached to, as any path string is reachable by chaining operations on a path instance. The FileSystem object defaults to the "file" module if the argument is omitted or undefined. More details follow in the [#Path Path] section of this document.
path(path String|Path, fs FileSystem) Path
"fs.path(path)" is a shorthand for "new fs.Path(path, fs)".
Working Path

The current working directory is used by all routines that resolve relative paths to absolute file system paths, including "open", and "absolute".

cwd() String
returns the current working directory.
chdir(path String)
changes the current working directory.
takes a variadic list of path Strings, joins them on the file system's path separator, and normalizes the result. details
split(path String) Array
returns an array of path components. If the path is absolute, the first component will be an indicator of the root of the file system; for file systems with drives (such as Windows), this is the drive identifier with a colon, like "c:"; on Unix, this is an empty string "". The intent is that calling "join.apply" with the result of "split" as arguments will reconstruct the path.
normal(path String)
removes '.' path components and simplifies '..' paths, if possible, for a given path.
absolute(path String)
returns the absolute path, starting with the root of this file system object, for the given path, resolved from the current working directory. If the file system supports home directory aliases, absolute resolves those from the root of the file system. The resulting path is in normal form. On most systems, this is equivalent to expanding any user directory alias, joining the path to the current working directory, and normalizing the result. "absolute" can be implemented in terms of "cwd", "join", and "normal".
canonical(path String)
returns the canonical path to a given abstract path. Canonical paths are both absolute and intrinsic, such that all paths that refer to a given file (whether it exists or not) have the same corresponding canonical path. This function must not communicate information about the true parent directories of files in chroot environments. This function is equivalent to expanding a user directory alias, joining the given path to the current working directory, joining all symbolic links along the path, and normalizing the result. "canonical" can be implemented in terms of "cwd", "join", "normal" and "readlink".
dirname(path String) String
returns the path of a file's containing directory, albeit the parent directory if the file is a directory. A terminal directory separator is ignored.
basename(path String, [extension String]) String
returns the part of the path that is after the last directory separator. If an extension is provided and is equal to the file's extension, the extension is removed from the result.
extension(path String) String
returns the extension of a file. The extension of a file is the last dot (excluding any number of initial dots) followed by one or more non-dot characters. Returns an empty string if no valid extension exists. unit test.
a function like "join" except that it treats each argument as as either an absolute or relative path and, as is the convention with URL's, treats everything up to the final directory separator as a location, and everything afterward as an entry in that directory, even if the entry refers to a directory in the underlying storage. Resolve starts at the location "" and walks to the locations referenced by each path, and returns the path of the last file. Thus, resolve(file, "") idempotently refers to the location containing a file or directory entry, and resolve(file, neighbor) always gives the path of a file in the same directory. "resolve" is useful for finding paths in the "neighborhood" of a given file, while gracefully accepting both absolute and relative paths at each stage. unit test.
relative(from, to)
returns the relative path from one path to another using only ".." to traverse up to the two paths' common ancestor.


whether a file exists at a given path: receives a path and returns whether that path, joined on the current working directory, corresponds to a file that exists. If the file is a broken symbolic link, returns false.
returns whether a path exists and that it corresponds to a file.
returns whether a path exists and that it corresponds to a directory.
returns whether a path exists and that it corresponds to a symbolic link (TODO or shortcut?).
returns whether a path exists, that it corresponds to a file, and that it can be opened for reading by "".
If a path exists, returns whether a file may be opened for writing, or entries added or removed from an existing directory. If the path does not exist, returns whether entries for files, directories, or links can be created at its location.


stat(path String)
Returns an object that contains the file's metadata, including all of the following that are applicable in the target platform's file system
device Number
device number of the file system
inode Number
virtual node number
mode Number
type and permissions, numeric
linkCount Number
number of hard links to the file
uid Number
numeric id of the owner user
rdev Number
the device identifier for special files
size NUmber
total size in bytes
blockSize Number
preferred block size for file system IO, in bytes
blockCount Number
number of blocks allocated
mtime Date
time of last modification (write)
atime Date
time of last access (read, write, update)
ctime Date
(TODO created vs. stat changed. is /.time/ really the best pattern for expressing these times?)
extended attributes (reserved)
access control lists (reserved)
size(path String)
mtime(path String)
atime(path String)
ctime(path String)
same(pathA String, pathB String) Boolean
whether the two files are identical, in that they come from the same file system, same device, and have the same node and corresponding storage, such that modifying one would implicitly and atomically modify the other.


chroot(path String)
returns an object that conforms to the File System API, like the "file" module or the "system.fs" variable, that can be safely passed into a sandbox as the "file" module and "system.fs" objects.


[new] Path(path String|Path|Array, [fs FileSystem]) Path

The prototype for the Path constructor is a String object.

The path constructor accepts as its first argument either a String, Path, or Array. If the path is an Array (as tested by Array.isArray, not merely typeof path == "array"), it must conform to the specification for values returned by "fs.split".

Every path object has the members "normal", "absolute", "canonical", "dirname", "basename", "join", and "resolve". All of these return new Path objects constructed by converting the path to a string, passing it through the likewise named method of "fs", and converting it back to a Path. Thus, all of these methods are chainable. In addition, "join" and "resolve" are variadic, so additional paths can be passed as arguments in either String, Path, or Array form.

Every path object has "chroot", "copy", "exists", "extension", "isDirectory", "isFile", "isLink", "isReadable", "isWritable", "mkdir", "mkdirs", "move", "mtime", "open", "read", "remove", "rename", "rmdir", "rmtree", "same", "size", "split", "stat", "touch", and "write". All of these functions convert themselves to strings and pass the results through the likewise named method of "fs".

In addition, paths implement:

uses "fs.relative" to return a Path from this path to another one.
uses "fs.relative" to return a Path to this path from another one.
returns an iterator of Path objects for the contained directory entries.

(TODO resolve whether it's more proper to make "Path" foundational and eliminate "fs". Wrapping the "Path" object around a central "fs" object will be necessary for "chroot" whether we expose that level of the API or not, and having routines that work with strings on one architectural layer and paths on the next up gives the programmer an oppoertunity to program at the level that makes sense for their task. It also, however, gives the programmer more to learn.)


The "open" function mediates the construction of various kinds of streams. As "open" is the only method with the authority to manipulate files, it constructs these types on behalf of a potentially unpriviledged caller. Stream constructors are not directly callable in a secure sandbox, so where and how these stream types are implemented is beyond the necessary scope of this specification. The "open" function always creates a byte level stream, and by default wraps that in a textual IO wrapper.

  • create a "raw" byte stream. If "x" mode (with either "w" or "a" mode), only open if the file does not already exist. Create the file and open the stream atomically.
    • if "r" mode, make "raw" a ByteReader
    • if "w" mode, make "raw" a ByteWriter
    • if "u" mode, make "raw" a ByteUpdater
  • if "+", seek to end.
  • if not "b" mode, return "raw".
  • return a wrapper encoded/decoded string stream around "raw" with specified buffering, line buffering, and charset.
    • if "r" mode, wrap "raw" in a TextReader
    • if "w" mode, wrap "raw" in a TextWriter
    • if "u" mode, wrap "raw" in a TextUpdater
appropriate for reading binary opaque struct records or other binary data or protocols
appropriate for writing binary opaque struct records or other binary data or protocols
appropriate for a database
appropriate for sockets
appropriate for standard input
appropriate for standard output
appropriate for a TTY

(TODO: resolve whether it is necessary for all stream types to have a common prototype, or whether it makes sense for them to be arranged in a class hierarchy.)

*Reader, *Updater

TextReader, ByteReader, TextUpdater, ByteUpdater, TextReaderWriter, and ByteReaderWriter have the following properties and methods:

read() *String
reads and returns all of the file until EOF is encountered. Return ByteStrings for Byte* types, and Strings for Text* types.
read(max Number) *String
readInto(buffer *Array, [begin Number], [end Number]) Number
canRead() Boolean
skip(n Number) Number

*Writer, *Updater

TextWriter, ByteWriter, TextUpdater, ByteUpdater, TextReaderWriter, and ByteReaderWriter have the following properties and methods:

canWrite() Boolean


tell() Number
seek(position Number, whence Number)
truncate([length Number=0])
a shortcut for seek(0)


TextReader, TextWriter, TextUpdater, and TextReaderWriter have the following properties and methods:

raw Byte*
the underlying byte stream, ByteReader for TextReaders, ByteWriter for TextWriters, and so on.


readLine() String
reads a line from the reader. If EOF is encountered before any data is gathered, returns "". Otherwise, returns the line including the "newLine".
readLines() Array*String
returns an Array of Strings accumulated by calling readLine until an empty string turns up. Does not include the final empty string, and does include "newLine" at the end of every line.
next() String or throws StopIteration
returns the next line of input without its "newLine". Throws StopIteration if EOF is encountered.
iterator() Iterator
returns the reader itself


writeLine(line String)
writes a "delimiter" delimited array of Strings terminated with a "newLine"


tell() OpaqueCookie
seek(position OpaqueCookie)
truncate([position OpaqueCookie)
seeks to the beginning of the file.


  • Path separators, and other file-system-specific constants are not included in this specification.


  • random access IO
  • locks
  • canonical IO (non-blocking)
  • comprehensive stat access and modification
  • temporary files and directories
  • symbolic links
  • more open options: permissions, owner, groupOwner
  • copy with metadata
  • glob
  • other proposed names.