Special Folders

The Windows shell considers certain folders Special Folders (well-known folders in newer versions). These include things like the Desktop folder, My Documents, Program Files and so on. Although their locations are generally pretty standard, it’s good practice to access them via the Shell API as they can be different on account of localisation, user change, group policies, roaming profiles, etc.

The winshell module offers specific functions for the most common of these plus a general-purpose function to access the remainder, either by their numeric constant or by a text version of their name. Where applicable, the specific functions can be called with a parameter of common set to True. This will return the all-users version of the folder.

Specific Functions


Return the desktop folder

Parameters:common – whether to return the All Users folder
Returns:the desktop folder

There are equivalent convenience functions for:

  • application_data
  • favourites
  • bookmarks (alias of favourites)
  • start_menu
  • programs
  • startup
  • personal_folder
  • my_documents (alias of personal_folder)
  • recent
  • sendto

The last three do not offer an “All Users” option via the common parameter.

General Functions


Return the special folder corresponding to folder.

Parameters:folder – either the CSIDL numeric constant or the corresponding name, eg “appdata” for CSIDL_APPDATA or “desktop” for CSIDL_DESKTOP.
Returns:the corresponding filesystem folder


Copy all the shortcuts on your desktop to a newly-created folder in the root of your profile:

import os, sys
import glob
import winshell
profile = winshell.folder("profile")
new_folder = os.path.join(profile, "TESTING")
for f in glob.glob(os.path.join(winshell.desktop(), "*.lnk")):
  print("Copying %s to %s" % (f, new_folder))
  winshell.copy_file(f, new_folder)

NB We’re not doing anything fancy with the shell & shortcuts in this example, simply assuming that shortcuts are files with an “.lnk” extension.


See also

Special Folders
Well-known folders on MSDN

To Do

  • New Vista / W7 Well-known folders via comtypes
  • Programatically updating locations of well-known folders