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3.2 Working with Files

Example 3-1 is a relatively short program that deletes a file or directory specified on the command line. Before it does the actual deletion, it performs several checks to ensure that the specified file exists, that it is writable, and, if it is a directory, that it is empty. If any of the tests fail, the program throws an exception explaining why the file cannot be deleted. These tests demonstrate some of the important features of the File class, and are necessary because the File.delete( ) method does not have useful failure diagnostics: instead of throwing an informative IOException on failure, it simply returns false. Thus, if we want to know why a file could not be deleted, we must test its deleteability before calling File.delete( ). Other useful File methods (worth looking up) include getParent( ), length( ), mkdir( ), and renameTo( ).

Example 3-1. Delete.java
package je3.io;
import java.io.*;

 * This class is a static method delete( ) and a standalone program that
 * deletes a specified file or directory.
public class Delete {
     * This is the main( ) method of the standalone program.  After checking
     * it arguments, it invokes the Delete.delete( ) method to do the deletion
    public static void main(String[  ] args) {
        if (args.length != 1) {    // Check command-line arguments
            System.err.println("Usage: java Delete <file or directory>");
        // Call delete( ) and display any error messages it throws.
        try { delete(args[0]); }
        catch (IllegalArgumentException e) {
            System.err.println(e.getMessage( ));
     * The static method that does the deletion.  Invoked by main( ), and
     * designed for use by other programs as well.  It first makes sure that
     * the specified file or directory is deleteable before attempting to
     * delete it.  If there is a problem, it throws an
     * IllegalArgumentException.
    public static void delete(String filename) {
        // Create a File object to represent the filename
        File f = new File(filename);

        // Make sure the file or directory exists and isn't write protected
        if (!f.exists( )) fail("Delete: no such file or directory: " +filename);
        if (!f.canWrite( )) fail("Delete: write protected: " + filename);

        // If it is a directory, make sure it is empty
        if (f.isDirectory( )) {
            String[  ] files = f.list( );
            if (files.length > 0)
                fail("Delete: directory not empty: " + filename);

        // If we passed all the tests, then attempt to delete it
        boolean success = f.delete( );
        // And throw an exception if it didn't work for some (unknown) reason.
        // For example, because of a bug with Java 1.1.1 on Linux, 
        // directory deletion always fails 
        if (!success) fail("Delete: deletion failed");

    /** A convenience method to throw an exception */
    protected static void fail(String msg) throws IllegalArgumentException {
        throw new IllegalArgumentException(msg);
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