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File path expression

A file path expression is a small syntax that allows you to construct file paths with environment variables. The syntax is similar to Bash's parameter expansion syntax, so if you're familiar with it, you'll be able to use it without having to learn it. Here are some examples of various file path expressions. One expression per line:


File paths

Not every part of a file path expression needs to be an environment variable; it can be a mix of environment variables and plain file paths, or no environment variables at all. Both MS-DOS/Windows-style file paths and POSIX-style file paths are supported. (However, even on Windows, we recommend using forward slashes instead of backslashes.)

Environment variable substitution

A file path may contain environment variables, or a file path expression may consist of only one environment variable. There are two syntaxes for environment variable substitution:

  • $ENV_VAR: If the boundaries of the environment variable are obvious, you can use this syntax in most cases.
  • ${ENV_VAR}: Sometimes the boundaries of an environment variable are unclear, in which case you use this syntax.

Note that even on Windows, we don't use the %ENV_VAR% or $env:ENV_VAR syntax, instead we use the POSIX shell-style syntax above.

Environment variable substitution with default

If an environment variable is undefined, you can tell it to use a given default expression instead. Simply write a default expression followed by :-. a default expression can include substitutions for other environment variables. For example, the file path expression below uses the value of the XDG_CONFIG_HOME environment variable if it exists, but otherwise uses $HOME/.config:


Conditional environment variable substitution

You can make a given expression be used only when an environment variable is defined. The expression to be used conditionally can be followed by :+, and similarly, the expression can include other environment variable substitutions. For example, the file path expression below takes the result of the expression $BAR\baz only if the FOO environment variable is defined: