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Create Parent Directories with Curl Using the --create-dirs Flag


This can save you from writing a file to a temporary directory and then moving it after using mkdir.

Quick Jump: Demo Video

Let’s say you want to download a file to a specific directory that doesn’t exist yet and also make it executable. I do this a lot with curl.

Not using --create-dirs:
curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nickjj/notes/master/notes \
  --output /tmp/notes \
  && chmod +x /tmp/notes \
  && mkdir -p /tmp/custom/dir/path \
  && mv /tmp/notes /tmp/custom/dir/path
Using --create-dirs:
curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nickjj/notes/master/notes \
  --create-dirs --output /tmp/custom/dir/path/notes \
  && chmod +x /tmp/custom/dir/path/notes

Since the last argument of the above command is the path of the file we can even improve on that by using $_ which contains the last argument of the previous command.

This way we can avoid duplicating the path without creating a custom variable:

curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nickjj/notes/master/notes \
  --create-dirs --output /tmp/custom/dir/path/notes \
  && chmod +x "${_}"

If any of the directories exist then they won’t be created but the command will still work. The directories get created with 0750 permissions.

--create-dirs has been available since curl 7.10.3 (January 2003).

Demo Video


  • 0:32 – Saving a file with curl
  • 1:15 – Saving a file to a directory that doesn’t exist, the hard way
  • 2:46 – Simplifying things with the –create-dirs flag
  • 3:39 – Using the shell to our advantage to make it better
  • 4:46 – If the directories exist, curl is smart enough to still work
  • 5:08 – This flag has been around for 20+ years


When did you learn about this flag? Let me know below!

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