422

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

0

7 Answers 7

647
┌── 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.

12
  • 79
    If only man pages were as clear as your answer! Jan 27, 2016 at 7:00
  • 1
    You don't need to disable SIP to symlink SIP-protected folders/files, e.g. ln -s /Users /Users/myuser/all-users works perfectly. You only need to disable SIP if you want to create the symlink in a SIP-protected folder (as you would if you wanted to create any other directory entry there).
    – nohillside
    Mar 13, 2016 at 22:51
  • 2
    @patrix I've edited my answer to clarify; feel free to edit further.
    – grg
    Mar 14, 2016 at 7:40
  • 6
    Fun fact: original doesn't need to actually exist. The command ln -s "This directory is no longer in use" README would be perfectly legitimate, and then anybody executing ls -l would see the message. May 11, 2016 at 14:33
  • 1
    For future reference: You don't need to move /Users on macOS to save space. You can change users' home directory paths individually in the System Preferences under Users & Groups by right-clicking the user list entries.
    – Peter W.
    May 12, 2017 at 22:09
90

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
3
  • 3
    Does the linked-file have to exist first? I get a file not found error on the target.
    – AlxVallejo
    Oct 26, 2016 at 14:26
  • 3
    The file not (you get an error message if it does), but all directories in any path. If you are stuck, feel free to ask a new question using the Ask Question button at the top right. Include a link to this question to provide context.
    – nohillside
    Oct 26, 2016 at 17:06
  • 1
    Symbolic link should not exist before you run this command. But a valid path is required as far as I know. If the output file's folder not exists before you run this command, you will get No such file or directoryerror as well. Dec 19, 2017 at 11:23
39

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

8
  • 3
    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
  • 13
    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
  • 1
    @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
  • 3
    @BenLeggiero That makes an alias. Dec 29, 2016 at 15:11
  • 2
    @BenLeggerio, The difference is explained here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/2991/…
    – MiB
    Feb 25, 2017 at 3:25
34

It's just ln -s <source> <destination>.

0
7

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.

4
  • 4
    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
1

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
1
  • 1
    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
0

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

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .