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python-magic is a python interface to the libmagic file type identification library. libmagic identifies file types by checking their headers according to a predefined list of file types. This functionality is exposed to the command line by the Unix command file.


>>> import magic
>>> magic.from_file("testdata/test.pdf")
'PDF document, version 1.2'
>>> magic.from_buffer(open("testdata/test.pdf").read(1024))
'PDF document, version 1.2'
>>> magic.from_file("testdata/test.pdf", mime=True)

There is also a Magic class that provides more direct control, including overriding the magic database file and turning on character encoding detection. This is not recommended for general use. In particular, it's not safe for sharing across multiple threads and will fail throw if this is attempted.

>>> f = magic.Magic(uncompress=True)
>>> f.from_file('testdata/test.gz')
'ASCII text (gzip compressed data, was "test", last modified: Sat Jun 28
21:32:52 2008, from Unix)'

You can also combine the flag options:

>>> f = magic.Magic(mime=True, uncompress=True)
>>> f.from_file('testdata/test.gz')


Minor version bumps should be backwards compatible. Major bumps are not.

Name Conflict

There are, sadly, two libraries which use the module name magic. Both have been around for quite a while.If you are using this module and get an error using a method like open, your code is expecting the other one. Hopefully one day these will be reconciled.


The current stable version of python-magic is available on pypi and can be installed by running pip install python-magic.

Other sources:


You'll need DLLs for libmagic. @julian-r has uploaded a versoin of this project that includes binaries to pypi:

Other sources of the libraries in the past have been File for Windows . You will need to copy the file magic out of [binary-zip]\share\misc, and pass it's location to Magic(magic_file=...).

If you are using a 64-bit build of python, you'll need 64-bit libmagic binaries which can be found here: Newer version can be found here:


  • When using Homebrew: brew install libmagic
  • When using macports: port install file


  • 'MagicException: could not find any magic files!': some installations of libmagic do not correctly point to their magic database file. Try specifying the path to the file explicitly in the constructor: magic.Magic(magic_file="path_to_magic_file").

  • 'WindowsError: [Error 193] %1 is not a valid Win32 application': Attempting to run the 32-bit libmagic DLL in a 64-bit build of python will fail with this error. Here are 64-bit builds of libmagic for windows:

  • 'WindowsError: exception: access violation writing 0x00000000 ' This may indicate you are mixing Windows Python and Cygwin Python. Make sure your libmagic and python builds are consistent.


Written by Adam Hupp in 2001 for a project that never got off the ground. It originally used SWIG for the C library bindings, but switched to ctypes once that was part of the python standard library.

You can contact me via my website or github.


Thanks to these folks on github who submitted features and bugfixes.


python-magic is distributed under the MIT license. See the included LICENSE file for details.