Create Symbolic Links at Command Line of Mac OS

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A symbolic link created on the command line allows a linked object in the file system to point to an original object in another location. In this way, symbolic links behave just like an alias in the Mac OS X GUI, except that the link and reference between files or folders takes place at a lower level, and thus can be directly referenced by various applications or user purposes. This can be useful for advanced Mac users in many situations, from making it easier to access a particular location to transferring a program folder to another hard drive and a lot more.

To create and set a symbolic link from the command line in Mac OS X, you want to use the ln command with the -s flag, without the -s flag it sets a hard link, which is not what we are looking to do here. Launch the Terminal to get started.

How to Create a symbolic link

The basic syntax for creating a symbolic link (or soft link) is as follows:

ln -s / path / to / original / / path / to / link

That will / path / to / refer to the original location, in this case / path / to / original /

Sample syntax for creating soft links on the terminal

For example, if you want to create a symbolic link for the Downloads folder of the user linking it to a folder on an individual mounted drive, the syntax might look like this:

ln -s / Volumes / Storage / Downloads / ~ / Downloads /

That will link the active users ~ / Downloads / folder to a folder named “Downloads” on the mounted drive named “Storage”. In fact, if such a folder and drive existed, this would essentially allow all the files that would normally appear in the user’s download folder to go to the other mounted volume, essentially transferring the storage load to that separate drive , while the appearance of a ~ / Downloads / folder for the user. As mentioned earlier, this behaves like an alias.

Another example would be to provide easier access to an otherwise buried binary file by linking the command to / usr / sbin /

sudo ln -s /A/Deeply/Buried/Path/ToApp.framework/Resources/command / usr / sbin / commmand

This would allow the user to type ‘command’ and access the binary, without having to precede the execution of the command with the full path.

Softlinks have tons of potential uses, and if you’ve been reading OSXDaily for a long time, you’ve no doubt encountered them in other articles before, from getting easier access to the powerful airport command, putting mounted NTFS volumes on the desktop, to the move local iTunes iPhone backup folders to external drives, add a trash can icon to the user’s desktop like retro Mac OS versions, or even create an application cache folder on a RAM disk places for ultrafast data access and caching. The practical uses are many, and creating symbolic links works in any Unix operating system, so outside of Mac OS X you could apply the same idea to linux or FreeBSD.

How to Remove a symbolic link

Of course, symbolic links must sometimes be undone. This is easy with rm, or by using the ‘detach’ command like this:

rm / path / to / symlink

or

unlink / path / to / symlink /

Essentially this is removing the small file (again, as an alias) pointing to the symbolic link to the original item.

Unlinking a symbolic link does not delete any files or folders other than the defined link, but removes the reference from the linked item to the original item.

Be aware of particularly good applications or tricks with symbolic links? Let us know in the comments!

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How to Create Symbolic Links at Command Line of Mac OS X: FAQ

Tutorial Summary: How to Create Symbolic Links at Command Line of Mac OS X

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The time to complete the How to Create Symbolic Links at Command Line of Mac OS X tutorial is 10+ minutes.

What are the supported Device?

Apple

What are the supported Operating system?

mac OS


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