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Dirent is a programming interface for retrieving information about files and directories in C and C++ languages. This project provides a Dirent interface for Microsoft Visual Studio.


Download the latest Dirent installation package from GitHub and unpack the installation file with 7-zip, for example. The installation package contains include/dirent.h file as well as a few example and test programs.

To make Dirent available to all C/C++ projects in your machine, simply copy include/dirent.h file to the system include directory, e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\VC\include. Everything you need is included in the single dirent.h file, and you can start using Dirent immediately -- there is no need to add files to your Visual Studio project.

Alternatively, if you wish to distribute dirent.h alongside with your own project, then copy include/dirent.h file to a new sub-directory within your project and add that directory to include path on Windows while omitting the directory under Linux/UNIX. This allows your project to be compiled against native dirent.h on Linux/UNIX while substituting the functionality on Microsoft Windows.

Example Programs

The installation package contains example programs:

Program Purpose
ls List files in a directory, e.g. ls "c:\Program Files"
find Find files in subdirectories, e.g. find "c:\Program Files\CMake"
updatedb Build database of files in a drive, e.g. updatedb c:\
locate Locate a file from database, e.g. locate notepad
scandir Printed sorted list of file names in a directory, e.g. scandir .
du Compute disk usage, e.g. du "C:\Program Files"
cat Print a text file to screen, e.g. cat include/dirent.h

In order to build the example programs, first install CMake to your machine. Then, open command prompt and create a temporary directory c:\temp\dirent for the build files as

mkdir temp
mkdir temp\dirent
cd temp\dirent

Generate build files as

cmake d:\dirent

where d:\dirent is the root directory of the Dirent package containing this file.

Once CMake is finished, open Visual Studio, load the generated dirent.sln file from the build directory and build the whole solution.

Once the build completes, open command prompt and cd to the Debug directory to run the example programs. For example:

cd c:\temp\dirent\Debug
.\ls .

Visual Studio project also contains a solution named check which can be used to verify that Dirent API works as expected. Just build the solution from Visual Studio to run the test programs.

UTF-8 Support

By default, file and directory names in the Dirent API are expressed in the currently selected windows codepage. If you wish to use UTF-8 character encoding, then replace the main function with _main function and convert wide-character arguments to UTF-8 strings as demonstrated in the snippet below.

/* This is your true main function */
static int
_main(int argc, wchar_t *argv[])
	/* ... */

/* Convert arguments to UTF-8 */
#ifdef _MSC_VER
wmain(int argc, wchar_t *argv[])
	/* Select UTF-8 locale */
	setlocale(LC_ALL, ".utf8");

	/* Allocate memory for multi-byte argv table */
	char **mbargv;
	mbargv = (char**) malloc(argc * sizeof(char*));
	if (!mbargv) {
		puts("Out of memory");

	/* Convert each argument in argv to UTF-8 */
	for (int i = 0; i < argc; i++) {
		size_t n;
		wcstombs_s(&n, NULL, 0, argv[i], 0);

		/* Allocate room for ith argument */
		mbargv[i] = (char*) malloc(n);
		if (!mbargv[i]) {
			puts("Out of memory");

		/* Convert ith argument to utf-8 */
		wcstombs_s(NULL, mbargv[i], n, argv[i], n);

	/* Pass UTF-8 converted arguments to the main program */
	int errorcode = _main(argc, mbargv);

	/* Release UTF-8 arguments */
	for (int i = 0; i < argc; i++) {

	/* Release the argument table */
	return errorcode;
main(int argc, char *argv[])
	return _main(argc, argv);

For more information on UTF-8 support, please see setlocale in Visual Studio C runtime library reference.


We love to receive contributions from you. See the CONTRIBUTING file for details.


Dirent may be freely distributed under the MIT license. See the LICENSE file for details.

Alternatives to Dirent

I ported Dirent to Microsoft Windows in 1998 when only a few alternatives were available. However, the situation has changed since then and nowadays both Cygwin and MingW allow you to compile a great number of UNIX programs in Microsoft Windows. They both provide a full Dirent API as well as many other UNIX APIs. MingW can even be used for commercial applications!