Directory pathnames in code can be used mostly with or without a separator character at the end. So for example, the following commands in a Unix shell are identical:

  • ls /usr/bin
  • ls /usr/bin/

Or similarly in a Windows console:

  • dir C:\Windows
  • dir C:\Windows\

Also notably, most servers don't care about a (missing) slash after a URL path:

Occasionally, I've seen this exchangeability reflected by inconsistent usage in plain text, where directory names are presented to the reader sometimes with a separator at the end and sometimes without, even in the same context.

When writing human-readable text, like a manual page or a log entry, when is it a good idea to append a directory separator after a pathname, and when not? What are advantages and disadvantages of the different representations?

  • 2
    This question doesn't appear to have anything to do with UX.
    – Rich
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 2:36
  • The ls commands are not identical if bin is a symbolic link.
    – CL.
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 8:21
  • @CL yes, the representations are different, only equivalent most of the times. That adds to unclarity for many unexperienced readers.
    – GOTO 0
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 8:53

2 Answers 2


If user reads /usr/bin/ he will immediately knows that bin is a directory and not a file. If user reads /usr/bin he has no make distinction.

How Operating Systems make this job? When using the a command like ls -l in Unix or dir in Windows, the output makes the distinction between files and directories like this

  • Unix

    -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 15276 Oct 5 2004 a2ps.cfg

    drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Feb 2 2007 acpi

where the first symbol is - for a file and d for a directory

  • Windows

    05/14/2010 02:00 AM 135 README.TXT

    04/26/2013 11:08 AM <DIR> users

where 135 is the file size in bytes (meaning it's a file), and <DIR> is the the directory tag.


Browsers generally append a trailing slash when visiting the root of a website (www.google.com).

In terms of web design/development, there is a big difference between the following URLs if you're using relative links:

  • example.com/foo
  • example.com/foo/

If there is a link to ./ within the document (eg. <a href="./">elsewhere</a>), the page that you'll end up on is quite different:

  • example.com/foo -> example.com/
  • example.com/foo/ -> example.com/foo/

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