Creating and Using Symlinks

Often we want some files to be in two places at once. Perhaps you are working a website that has its files in you home folder and then you want them to be displayed in /var/www/. Or maybe the software that your working with requests specific files in one folder but another program wants the in their current one. Despite the difficulty that I have in describing why you would need such an ability, There is know denying that eventually you are going to need to know how to use symlinks.

At the most basic level a symlink (AKA the Symbolic Link or sometimes referred to as a soft link) is a pointer that points to the actually location of the files without the program knowing that the files are not actually there. It also allows for a there to be differences in group and ownership if the content of a file, but more of that another time.

The Below code must be run in a directory which you have read and write privileges eg. /home/{your user name}

Lets first create a file using the touch (creates the file without opening it first) command and add some content using a directed cat (OH! so many commands) statement.

cat This content is from >

next we will create a symlink to hello.two. This command follows a fairly simple structure of ln -s /path/to/file/ /path/to/fake/file

ln -s hello.two

Now lets see what is in hello.two. We can use cat again to view the contents (this time cat prints the contents of the file to the screen as the directional arrow is missing, rather than to the file).

cat hello.two

You should see the line that we added to earlier. eg. This content is from
Now that we have created the symlink. Lets remove it and the the files. This is as easy as deleting the file hello.two. while where at it we may as well clean up completely and remove as well.

rm -f hello.two
rm -f

IMPORTANT If you remove the file (or rename it) which is used by hello.two, then hello.two becomes useless but will still remain visible. This has got me once or twice when I didn’t know why I couldn’t access a file.

Symbolic links are also useful in changing the location of your directories. This works exactly the same as before. Lets say for example, you have a Code Igniter application, and you want to put the application folder in you home directory to use. the following command does just that.

ln -s /var/www/codeigniter/system/application mywebsite


Symbolic Links are very useful and when used correctly and greatly improve the accessibility of files and directories which makes all of our lives so much… easier.

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  2. some genuinely interesting details you have written.

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  5. Nice and easy! This is the way tutorials should be written.

    • I’m Glad you liked it. I Hope you come back some time as I have many many more short and simple tutorials, blogs and articles swelling in my mind just waiting to be written.

      I’ve added you blog to the blog roll because you where the first to comment. 🙂


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