Manpage Monday: copyfile(3)

2009-03-30 06:51:49 -08:00

copyfile(3) is an API for copying and moving files within the file-system:


These functions are used to copy a file’s data and/or metadata. (Metadata consists of permissions, extended attributes, access control lists, and so forth.)

The copyfile() function can copy the named from file to the named to file; the fcopyfile() function does the same, but using the file descriptors of already-opened files.

The copyfile() and fcopyfile() functions can also have their behavior modified by the following flags:


Return a bitmask (corresponding to the flags argument) indicating which contents would be copied; no data are actually copied. (E.g., if flags was set to COPYFILE_CHECK|COPYFILE_METADATA, and the from file had extended attributes but no ACLs, the return value would be COPYFILE_XATTR.)


Serialize the from file. The to file is an AppleDouble-format file.


Unserialize the from file. The from file is an AppleDouble-format file; the to file will have the extended attributes, ACLs, resource fork, and FinderInfo data from the to file, regardless of the flags argument passed in.

File Manager also has APIs for copying files, in both asynchronous and synchronous flavors. Those APIs don’t provide as much control over management of metadata, but they do offer asynchronous operation, whereas the copyfile(3) APIs appear to be synchronous.

And, of course, I should mention NSWorkspace operations, which you use with the performFileOperation:source:destination:files:tag:
. Unlike the other two, this API has been around since 10.0. On the other hand, like copyfile(3), it’s synchronous only.

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