Today I Learned

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Get a writable temporary directory in Elixir

When you need to write a temporary file to disk it is common to assume a particular path exists based on the operating system the app is running on:

tmp_file = Path.join("/tmp", filename)
File.write!(tmp_file)

However depending on the configuration of the app as it is deployed in production, it may not have access to the /tmp directory. Fortunately Elixir provides a function that returns a writable path for temporary files:

dir = System.tmp_dir!()
tmp_file = Path.join(dir, filename)
File.write!(tmp_file)

From the docs (h System.tmp_dir):

Writable temporary directory.

Returns a writable temporary directory. Searches for directories in the following order:

    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. C:\TMP on Windows or /tmp on Unix
    5. as a last resort, the current working directory

Returns nil if none of the above are writable.

I prefer to use the β€œbang” version System.tmp_dir! described as:

Same as tmp_dir/0 but raises RuntimeError instead of returning nil if no temp dir is set.

On my machine it returns something like this:

"/var/folders/66/dj7rwns53vn4db4_1npvqtrh0000gn/T/"
Looking for help? At Hashrocket, we πŸ’œ Elixir! From our many Elixir client projects, to sponsoring the Chicago Elixir Meetup, to the source code for this application, we are invested in this community. Contact us today to talk about your Elixir project.