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What command is used to create a symbolic link/soft link?

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7 Answers 7

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┌── ln(1) link, ln -- make links
│   ┌── Create a symbolic link.
│   │                         ┌── the optional path to the intended symlink
│   │                         │   if omitted, symlink is in . named as destination
│   │                         │   can use . or ~ or other relative paths
│   │                   ┌─────┴────────┐
ln -s /path/to/original /path/to/symlink
      └───────┬───────┘
              └── the path to the original file/folder
                  can use . or ~ or other relative paths
$ echo content > original
$ ln -s original symlink
$ ls -la original symlink
-rw-r--r--  1 grgarside  staff    8 28 Jan 18:44 original
lrwxr-xr-x  1 grgarside  staff    8 28 Jan 18:44 symlink -> original
$ cat symlink
content

For more information about ln(1) see the man page.

The path to the symlink is optional; if omitted, ln defaults to making a link with the same name as the destination, in the current directory:

$ cd ~/Documents
$ ln -s ../Pictures
$ ls -l Pictures
lrwxr-xr-x  1 user  staff  11 Feb  1 17:05 Pictures -> ../Pictures

To create a symlink to replace a system directory (e.g. if you want to have /Users pointing to another disk drive), you need to disable System Integrity Protection. You can re-enable it after the symlink is set up.

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  • 91
    If only man pages were as clear as your answer! Jan 27, 2016 at 7:00
  • If only man page writers had thought to use the term "original"! Just like everything in life, the original always comes first.
    – jschmitter
    Oct 16, 2023 at 19:22
106

The command is called ln. If used with the option -s it will create a symbolic link in the current directory:

ln -s /any/file/on/the/disk linked-file

If you want to overwrite an already existing target (linked-file), use

ln -Fs /any/file/on/the/disk linked-file
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42

I know this question is explicitly asking about the Terminal, but if you're in GUI Land and don't want to enter Terminal Land, you can use SymbolicLinker. This puts a "Make Symbolic Link" option in your Services menu in Finder.

A context menu for a folder, showing a "Services" submenu, with "Make Symbolic Link" hilighted A context menu for a symbolic link, with "Make Symbolic Link" hilighted

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  • 4
    I'd love to know why this was downvoted so I can make higher-quality answers from now on :)
    – Ky -
    Apr 27, 2016 at 22:43
  • 16
    probably because the question was "How can I create a symbolic link in Terminal?" But I am not downvoting you :)
    – vedrano
    Apr 29, 2016 at 14:55
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    @EdwardFalk I think in El Capitan, you can hold Command+Option while dragging a file... will update the answer later
    – Ky -
    Nov 9, 2016 at 14:27
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    @BenLeggiero That makes an alias. Dec 29, 2016 at 15:11
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    @BenLeggerio, The difference is explained here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/2991/…
    – MiB
    Feb 25, 2017 at 3:25
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It's just ln -s <source> <destination>.

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ln -s /some/dir/ ~/Desktop/dir

You can also create a symlink for directory using the same command

ln -s "$(pwd)" ~/Desktop/dir

To create symlink to current directory you are in.

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    A simple . (dot) will give the pwd. No fancy arguments needed :)
    – mylogon
    Apr 20, 2018 at 19:37
  • @mylogon hahaha i like to overthink sometimes. simplified my answer!
    – Gerald
    Jun 17, 2018 at 8:23
  • @mylogon i just realised that . doesnt work on macOS. didnt try on linux yet. using ./ resulted in this foo -> ./foo which points to itself.
    – Gerald
    Jul 12, 2018 at 6:10
  • What is the full command you typed out?
    – mylogon
    Jul 12, 2018 at 6:20
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Unless the source path is relative to your destination, use an absolute path to your source path, and put it in single quotes

$ ln -s '/any file/could have (special chars)/or spaces/test' '/some/other place/file'

You can always figure out the current full unescaped path to something by going to that folder in the terminal, then typing

$ pwd
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As a heads up to anyone, you must use full path names. This wasn't immediately clear to me, as I felt I could symlink relative paths in a folder that I was running the command inside. I could be wrong (I'm a macOS novice).

For example, if I try to symlink my Pictures folder inside of my Downloads folder, while cd'd in my user home directory, this will not work:

Users\stevebauman >_ ln -s Pictures Downloads

Instead, you must use:

Users\stevebauman >_ ln -s /Users/stevebauman/Pictures /Users/stevebauman/Downloads
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    Not exactly - the link has to be expanded from where it is so ln -s ../Pictures Pictures works. The link works as if you cd to where you store the link
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 1, 2021 at 12:14

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