A symbolic link (also known as a symlink or soft link) is a special type of file that points to another file or directory on your system. Symbolic links can be used to create shortcuts to files or directories, or to create aliases for files with different names or locations. In this tutorial, we will cover how to create symbolic links in Linux and some common use cases for them.
Creating a symbolic link
To create a symbolic link in Linux, you can use the
ln command with the
-s option. The syntax for creating a symbolic link is as follows:
ln -s target link
target is the file or directory that the symbolic link should point to, and
link is the name of the symbolic link that you want to create.
For example, to create a symbolic link called
link that points to the file
/home/user/file.txt, you can use the following command:
ln -s /home/user/file.txt link
This will create a symbolic link called
link in the current directory, which you can use to access the file
Checking if a file is a symbolic link
To check if a file is a symbolic link, you can use the
ls command with the
-l option, which displays the file’s type and permissions. If the file is a symbolic link, the
ls command will display an
l in the first column of the output.
For example, to check if the file
link is a symbolic link, you can use the following command:
ls -l link
This will output something like the following:
lrwxrwxrwx 1 user user 21 Jan 1 12:00 link -> /home/user/file.txt
l in the first column indicates that
link is a symbolic link, and the arrow (
->) followed by the path
/home/user/file.txt shows that the symbolic link points to that file.
Common use cases for symbolic links
Here are some common use cases for symbolic links:
- Creating shortcuts to files or directories: Symbolic links can be used to create shortcuts to files or directories that are located in different locations on your system. This can make it easier to access these files or directories without having to navigate through multiple directories.
- Creating aliases for files: Symbolic links can be used to create aliases for files with different names or locations. For example, you could create a symbolic link called
linkthat points to the file
/home/user/file.txt, and then use
linkas an alias for the file. This can be useful if you want to access a file with a different name or if you want to access a file in a different location without changing the current directory.
- Sharing files between different users or systems: Symbolic links can be used to share files between different users or systems by creating a symbolic link on one system that points to a file on another system. This can be useful if you want to access a file from multiple locations without having to copy the file to each location.
- Creating a backup of a file: Symbolic links can be used to create a backup of a file without taking up additional storage space. To do this, you can create a symbolic link to the original file and then delete the original file. This will remove the original file from the file system, but the symbolic link will still allow you to access the file’s content. If you need to restore the original file, you can recreate the original file using the content from the symbolic link.
There are many more options and features available with the
ln command, and learning them can take time and practice. Here are some additional resources that can help you learn more about symbolic links in Linux:
lnmanual page: You can view the manual page for the
lncommand by using the
mancommand. For example,
man lnwill show you the manual page for the
lncommand, including all of its options and usage examples.
--helpoption: Many commands, including
ln, support the
--helpoption, which displays a short summary of the command’s usage and options. For example,
ln --helpwill show you a summary of the options available for the
- The Linux documentation project: This website (https://www.tldp.org/) contains a wealth of documentation and tutorials on using the command line in Linux, including information on symbolic links.
I hope this tutorial has helped you