[Web Design/Front-end Dev] The effin’ PATH demystified (Windows)

If you feel dumb because you don’t know what the PATH is, don’t sweat it, I felt exactly the same for years. I’ll explain WTF the PATH is.

Disclaimer: This post has a little bit of angriness (yep, that’s a word) to its tone because of the frustration I experienced for so long with something so simple but that tutorials never explained and always assumed you knew about. So, pardon my tone =]

As a Web Designer that knows how to implement his own designs, a.k.a., Front-end Designer, many times I had to deal with situations where knowing what the PATH was so I could learn a new tool or make a tool work better. Specifically installing Ruby (in order to install and use Sass) and making an SFTP plugin work in Total Commander.

Could you cut the crap and please tell me WTF the PATH is already!

Sure. In human terms, the PATH is a location in your hard drive where some programs store key files needed to run, also known as “executables”.

I present to you, the effin’ PATH:

Environment Variables dialog box in Windows showing the PATH.

As I said, simple. Right? Right?!

Now that we know, yeah, simple… but before (just a few seconds ago) not so simple, because many authors and forum comments assume you magically know what the effin’ PATH is.

Want examples of people and applications mentioning the PATH assuming you already know what it is?

Here you go:

Stack Overflow comments:

Uh… what? o_O
Seems this person didn’t know what the PATH really was. But at the end, he did know. ¬¬

Total Commander Alert Window:

Yes, yes, somewhere in the PATH… but where is the effin’ PATH dude?

How to get to the effin’ PATH on Windows:

The steps are the same in either Windows 7, 8 or 10 (the interface changes obviously):

  1. Press the Windows Key
  2. Start typing envir
  3. Select ‘Edit environment variables for your account’
  4. Press Enter
Searching for Environment Variables in Windows 8.x to get to the effin’ PATH.
Results for Environment Variables in Windows 7 to get to the effin’ PATH.

Click on the Environment Variables button at the bottom right:

System Properties dialog box in Windows 10… but it looks pretty much the same in all Windows versions.
Environment Variables dialog box in Windows showing the PATH.

And here’s the definition from Wikipedia

“PATH is an environment variable on Unix-like operating systems, DOS, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows, specifying a set of directories where executable programs are located.”

That’s it, now you know what the effin’ PATH is and how to get to it :)


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