Symbolic Links – Soft Links – Symlinks

Ian! D. Allen –

Fall 2013 - September to December 2013 - Updated 2017-03-09 09:26 EST

1 IntroductionIndexup to index

In contrast to “hard links”, symbolic links are called “soft links” or “symlinks”. They were invented to solve the limitation of not being able to make hard links to directories. Symbolic links can link to anything, even directories, so they can give multiple names to directories.

Symbolic links were brought to Unix at Berkeley (BSD Unix) in the 1980s. They are now available in Microsoft NTFS as of Windows Vista, 30 years later. See:

2 Second-class citizensIndexup to index

Symlinks are similar to Windows/Macintosh aliases and have some of the same limitations. They are secondary names, because they don’t change the link count field of the things they link to and they can stop working if you rename or delete the actual file system object that is the target of the link. Symlinks are second-class file system objects and many programs – especially programs that recursively walk directory trees such as find, tree, cp -r, and ls -R – don’t follow them, so they don’t cause infinite loops in the file system.

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