Skip to content


Folders and files

Last commit message
Last commit date

Latest commit



24 Commits

Repository files navigation


Specification for the ".paths" file extension

This is a proposal for using the .paths file extension for specific file content, sharable between a wide range of programs that process a bunch of files (and folders etc.).

Semantics (Protocol)

If an app supports opening .paths files, then it shall treat them as a set of files for browsing, as opposed to opening them.

This is useful for any program that provides a file browser. If the app can also open certain documents for purpose of viewing or editing them, then, by default, it would always do so with any file it's asked to open.

Let's assume the user has a list of files, e.g. collected in Finder, and then drags them to an app, or double click them. The app would then open each file as a document, by default.

But what if the user wants to have the app's browser show the list of files, instead? Currently, there is no protocol for this – and that's what this proposal is about:

If the app is asked to open a .paths file, it should default to showing the items in its browser instead of opening them as individual items or as a text document.

For instance, a text editor like BBEdit, which can both edit text files and also show a file browser for a set of files, opening a .paths file should give the user the option to either edit the file as a text document or list the referenced files in its file browser. How BBEdit provides this choice to the user is not part of the proposal, though.

For programs that cannot view/edit text files, opening a .paths file is even clearer: It's meant to read the file paths from it and then process them in a way that makes sense for that program. For instance, a file renamer would then take the list and process them all by renaming them as the user wishes.

Alongside this, it's also a good idea that such programs do not only respond to the "open document" event by processing the paths from the file but also by accepting .paths files be dropped into any windows of the app as far as it makes sense.

Example: Find Any File (FAF) finds files and shows them in a browser window, similar to the Finder. If you use the Save command, it'll write a .paths file containing the paths of the found files. And if you double click the .paths file, it'll open a new browser window, listing these files again. But a browser window also accepts drops of .paths files - and if the user does this, the files referenced by the droppged .paths file will be added to the window, thereby extending the browser's contents.

Format specs

Roughly, the .paths format is a plain text file (UTF-8, without BOM) with each line following these rules:

  • empty -> ignore
  • starts with "#" -> handle as user-readable comment (not necessarily to be shown to the user by your parser)
  • starts with "{" -> interpret as JSON string. Content is currently private, so if you use this, add an identifier that allows you to detect whether you understand its contents. And the entire JSON string needs to be in a single line!
  • starts with "/" -> interpret as POSIX path
  • starts with "~" -> interpret as POSIX path, replacing the leading ~ with the user's home folder

Ignore anything else (i.e. don't complain to the user about lines in an unexpected format).

Also, if the file contains at least one 00-byte, then assume that the lines are separated by 00-bytes (as from output of many cmdline tools with the "-0" option), otherwise assume LF as line separator (note that, at least on macOS, CRs are allowed in file names, such as for the infamous "Icon␍" file names, hence do not ignore CRs nor treat them as line delimiters).

That's it. The format is therefore suited to be generated from the output of many cmdline tools that list file paths, and is easily user-readable as well.

Pretty obvious, really, but the rules above (handling of 00 bytes, optional comments and support for "~", and silently ignoring unknown lines) make sure that it's suitable for a lot of applications. For instance, FindAnyFile only writes the full paths to the file, whereas Scherlokk also writes some info about the search parameters into the first line, in JSON form. That way, Scherlokk uses this format to Save a result, and if the user later reopens the file, he'll not only get the results back but also gets the search parameters filled into the UI again.


The UTI shall conform to public.utf8-plain-text (and to public.content, see WWDC 2021 Tech Talk at 12:57).

The domain "" has been acquired for this (until mid-2026 for now). Thomas Tempelmann and Rich Siegel have access to the registrar login.

The UTI for this is therefore: cc.utis.paths-file

Info.plist contents

This is an example how your Info.plist entries should be set up (hint: you can edit binary plist files with BBEdit).

This is to declare that the extension paths has the UTI cc.utis.paths-file, so that Finder can show the appropriate type (kind):

			<string>POSIX Paths File</string>

(If you only read .paths files but not write them, you should probably import instead of export this type, i.e. by using UTImportedTypeDeclarations instead of UTExportedTypeDeclarations.)

Note that we don't supply an icon (yet). If you have one specific for your app, you'd also add an UTTypeIconFile pointing to the icns file.

And this is for letting Finder (i.e. Launch Services) know that your app can open these paths files:

			<string>POSIX Paths File</string>
			<string>... use "Editor" (if you can write) or "Viewer" (if you can only read) here ...</string>
			<string>...fill in your own if you use NSDocument to manage files, or else remove this key-value pair entirely...</string>

For more details and examples on declaring this and other custom UTIs, see this WWDC 2021 Tech Talk.

Programs that currently support this file format (in alphabetical order)

Program proposals (i.e. I/we contacted them or plan to do so)

Homepage of

See for the main anchor of all things related to UTIs.


Specification for the ".paths" file extension






No releases published


No packages published