binary file

A file object able to read and write bytes-like objects. Examples of binary files are files opened in binary mode ('rb', 'wb' or 'rb+'), sys.stdin.buffer, sys.stdout.buffer, and instances of io.BytesIO and gzip.GzipFile.

See also text file for a file object able to read and write str objects.

bytes-like object

An object that supports the bufferobjects and can export a C-contiguous buffer. This includes all bytes, bytearray, and array.array objects, as well as many common memoryview objects. Bytes-like objects can be used for various operations that work with binary data; these include compression, saving to a binary file, and sending over a socket.

Some operations need the binary data to be mutable. The documentation often refers to these as “read-write bytes-like objects”. Example mutable buffer objects include bytearray and a memoryview of a bytearray. Other operations require the binary data to be stored in immutable objects (“read-only bytes-like objects”); examples of these include bytes and a memoryview of a bytes object.


A buffer is considered contiguous exactly if it is either C-contiguous or Fortran contiguous. Zero-dimensional buffers are C and Fortran contiguous. In one-dimensional arrays, the items must be laid out in memory next to each other, in order of increasing indexes starting from zero. In multidimensional C-contiguous arrays, the last index varies the fastest when visiting items in order of memory address. However, in Fortran contiguous arrays, the first index varies the fastest.

file object

An object exposing a file-oriented API (with methods such as read() or write()) to an underlying resource. Depending on the way it was created, a file object can mediate access to a real on-disk file or to another type of storage or communication device (for example standard input/output, in-memory buffers, sockets, pipes, etc.). File objects are also called file-like objects or streams.

There are actually three categories of file objects: raw binary files, buffered binary files and text files. Their interfaces are defined in the io module. The canonical way to create a file object is by using the open() function.

file-like object
A synonym for file object.
text file

A file object able to read and write str objects. Often, a text file actually accesses a byte-oriented datastream and handles the text encoding automatically. Examples of text files are files opened in text mode ('r' or 'w'), sys.stdin, sys.stdout, and instances of io.StringIO.

See also binary file for a file object able to read and write bytes-like objects.

path-like object
An object representing a file system path. A path-like object is either a str or bytes object representing a path, or an object implementing the os.PathLike protocol. An object that supports the os.PathLike protocol can be converted to a str or bytes file system path by calling the os.fspath() function; os.fsdecode() and os.fsencode() can be used to guarantee a str or bytes result instead, respectively. Introduced by PEP 519.