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A safe wrapper for rm that adds useful warnings and an optional recycle/trash mode

Project description

Version: 1.0-beta10

A wrapper for rm that adds more useful warnings and an optional recycle/trash mode

Can be used as a drop-in replacement for rm on any Linux or MacOS system with Python > 2.6. With no arguments or configuration, it will warn you if you delete more than 3 files or any directories, and will print the files and folders to delete to the console when prompting for approval (something rm -I does not do).

All rm commands are implemented here. In addition, passing -c will result in files being trashed/recycled instead of deleted. Applescript is used on MacOS, otherwise the best trash location is chosen (see below). Most files can be restored using GUI tools (e.g. Nautilus/Finder), as the default Trash folders and metadata are used (e.g. Put Back works on Mac).

Note: passing -s will result in files being destroyed with shred and will forcibly override and disable recycle mode.

Ideally, this tool should be symlinked to rm and the file ~/.rm_recycle_home should be created, which will make recycling automatic only for files in your home directory. This will provide a great deal of safety without majorly messing up any sys-admin work.


Usage: [-c] [-f | -i] [-dPRrvW] file ..

    -c, --recycle         move to trash instead of deleting (forced on by
    -s, --shred           run shred on all files (recursively if directories
                          included) prior to deleting, override recycle
        --direct          force off recycling, even if ~/.rm_recycle exists
        --dryrun          do not actually remove or move files, just print
    -h, --help            display this help and exit

All other arguments passed to rm

Common rm arguments
    -f, --force           ignore nonexistent files and arguments, never prompt
    -i                    prompt before every removal
    -I                    prompt once before removing more than three files, or
                          when removing recursively
    -r, -R, --recursive   remove directories and their contents recursively
    -d, --dir             remove empty directories
    -v, --verbose         explain what is being done

For full help for rm, see `man rm`, note that only the '-i', '-f' and '-v'
options have any meaning in recycle mode, which uses `mv`. Argument order does
not matter.

Install as a plugin


  • An sh style shell, preferably zsh, dash, or bash

  • Python version 2.6+, no additional modules required

It should work almost everywhere

Note: If anyone can help with a FISH and/or Windows version, that would be great

General Install

With any sh like shell (sh, bash, fish, zsh)

  1. cd ~

  2. git clone

  3. echo "source ~/careful_rm/" >> .bashrc


The ZSH version of this plugin is provided by the careful_rm.plugin.zsh file. In addition to aliasing rm to careful_rm, it also sets a $TRASH variable that updates with every directory change and makes ~trash a named directory that points to $TRASH.

ZSH offers some great ways to install as a plugin and stay up to date, my favorite is antigen, but any of the following methods will work.


If you’re using Antigen, just add antigen bundle MikeDacre/careful_rm to your .zshrc file where you’re loading your other zsh plugins. You will need to reload ZSH to install the plugin.


  1. mkdir -p ~/oh-my-zsh/custom/plugins

  2. cd ~/oh-my-zsh/custom/plugins

  3. git clone

  4. add plugins+=(careful_rm) to the right place in your ~/.zshrc


If you’re using Zgen, add zgen load MikeDacre/careful_rm to your .zshrc file where you’re loading your other zsh plugins.

Install Script Only

If you want you can install the code directly and handle shell integration yourself. The project can be installed with either pip, or just by directly downloading the script.

To alias the code to rm yourself, you can download and source the script, or just add something like this to your ~/.bashrc.

if hash 2>/dev/null; then
    alias rm="$(command -v"
elif hash careful_rm 2>/dev/null; then
    alias rm="$(command -v careful_rm)"
    alias rm="rm -I"


This project is on PyPI so you can just install it with pip, but you won’t get any shell integration:

pip install careful_rm

Direct Install

You can just put it into your $PATH and use it directly. e.g.:

  1. cd /usr/local/bin

  2. wget

Rationale and Implementation

rm is a powerful *nix tool that simply drops a file from the drive index. It doesn’t delete it or put it in a Trash can, it just de-indexes it which makes the file hard to recover unless you want to put in the work, and pretty easy to recover if you are willing to spend a few hours trying (use shred to actually secure erase files). is inspired by the -I interactive mode of rm and by safe-rm. safe-rm adds a recycle bin mode to rm, and the -I interactive mode adds a prompt if you delete more than a handful of files or recursively delete a directory. ZSH also has an option to warn you if you recursively rm a directory.

These are all great, but I found them unsatisfying. What I want is for rm to be quick and not bother me for single file deletions (so rm -i is out), but to let me know when I am deleting a lot of files, and to actually print a list of files that are about to be deleted. I also want it to have the option to trash/recycle my files instead of just straight deleting them…. like safe-rm, but not so intrusive (safe-rm defaults to recycle, and doesn’t warn). is fundamentally a simple rm wrapper, that accepts all of the same commands as rm, but with a few additional options features. In the source code CUTOFF is set to 3, so deleting more files than that will prompt the user. Also, deleting a directory will prompt the user separately with a count of all files and subdirectories within the folders to be deleted.

Furthermore, implements a fully integrated trash mode that can be toggled on with -c. It can also be forced on by adding a file at ~/.rm_recycle, or toggled on only for $HOME (the best idea), by ~/.rm_recycle_home. The mode can be disabled on the fly by passing --direct, which forces off recycle mode.

The recycle mode tries to find the best location to recycle to on MacOS or Linux, on MacOS it also tries to use Apple Script to trash files, which means the original location is preserved (note Applescript can be slow, you can disable it by adding a ~/.no_apple_rm file, but Put Back won’t work). The best location for trashes goes in this order:

  1. $HOME/.Trash on Mac or $HOME/.local/share/Trash on Linux

  2. <mountpoint>/.Trashes on Mac or <mountpoint>/.Trash-$UID on Linux

  3. /tmp/$USER_trash

Always the best trash can to avoid Volume hopping is favored, as moving across file systems is slow. If the trash does not exist, the user is prompted to create it, they then also have the option to fall back to the root trash (/tmp/$USER_trash) or just rm the files.

/tmp/$USER_trash is almost always used for deleting system/root files, but note that you most likely do not want to save those files, and straight rm is generally better.

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