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A python wrapper for libmagic
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branch: master


python-magic is a python interface to the libmagic file type identification library. libmagic identifies file types by checking their headers according to a predefined list of file types. This functionality is exposed to the command line by the Unix command file.


>>> import magic
>>> magic.from_file("testdata/test.pdf")
'PDF document, version 1.2'
>>> magic.from_buffer(open("testdata/test.pdf").read(1024))
'PDF document, version 1.2'
>>> magic.from_file("testdata/test.pdf", mime=True)

There is also a Magic class that provides more direct control, including overriding the magic database file and turning on character encoding detection. This is not recommended for general use. In particular, it's not safe for sharing across multiple threads and will fail throw if this is attempted.

>>> f = magic.Magic(uncompress=True)
>>> f.from_file('testdata/test.gz')
'ASCII text (gzip compressed data, was "test", last modified: Sat Jun 28
21:32:52 2008, from Unix)'

You can also combine the flag options:

>>> f = magic.Magic(mime=True, uncompress=True)
>>> f.from_file('testdata/test.gz')

Name Conflict

There are, sadly, two libraries which use the module name magic. Both have been around for quite a while.If you are using this module and get an error using a method like open, your code is expecting the other one. Hopefully one day these will be recociled.


The current stable version of python-magic is available on pypi and can be installed by running pip install python-magic.

Other sources:


On Windows, install Cygwin ( To find the libraries, either add /bin to the $PATH or copy cygwin1.dll, cygz.dll, and cygmagic-1.dll to C:\Windows\System32


  • When using Homebrew: brew install libmagic
  • When using macports: port install file


  • 'MagicException: could not find any magic files!': some installations of libmagic do not correctly point to their magic database file. Try specifying the path to the file explictly in the constructor: magic.Magic(magic_file="path_to_magic_file").

  • 'WindowsError: [Error 193] %1 is not a valid Win32 application': Attempting to run the 32-bit libmagic DLL in a 64-bit build of python will fail with this error. I'm not aware of any publically available 64-bit builds of libmagic. You'll either need to build them yourself (please share docs!), or switch to a 32-bit Python.


Written by Adam Hupp in 2001 for a project that never got off the ground. It originally used SWIG for the C library bindings, but switched to ctypes once that was part of the python standard library.

You can contact me via my website or github.


Thanks to these folks on github who submitted features and bugfixes.


python-magic is distributed under the MIT license. See the included LICENSE file for details.

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