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Last modified: Thursday, March 04, 2004 

directory tree
(1) An organizational unit, or container, used to organize folders and files into a hierarchical structure. Directories contain bookkeeping information about files that are, figuratively speaking, beneath them in the hierarchy. You can think of a directory as a file cabinet that contains folders that contain files. Many graphical user interfaces use the term folder instead of directory.

Computer manuals often describe directories and file structures in terms of an inverted tree. The files and directories at any level are contained in the directory above them. To access a file, you may need to specify the names of all the directories above it. You do this by specifying a path.

The topmost directory in any file is called the root directory. A directory that is below another directory is called a subdirectory. A directory above a subdirectory is called the parent directory. Under DOS and Windows, the root directory is a back slash (\).

To read information from, or write information into, a directory, you must use an operating system command. You cannot directly edit directory files. For example, the DIR command in DOS reads a directory file and displays its contents.

(2) In networks, a database of network resources, such as e-mail addresses. See under directory service.

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related categories

File Management


related terms

access control





file management system



journaled file system

link farming


root directory


tree structure

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