Linux Tactic

Mastering Links in Linux: Types Syntax and Applications

When it comes to Linux, one of the most common tasks that a user performs is linking files or directories. This technique saves time and disk space by allowing a user to create a reference to an existing file, either by copying or by pointing to its location.

In this article, we will provide an in-depth understanding of the various types of links in Linux, the syntax of the ln command, and how to update and overwrite links. Well also provide some practical applications of links in the system.

Understanding Links in Linux:

Types of Links:

There are three types of links in Linux: hard link, symbolic link, and memory location. Soft or symbolic links are the most widely used and allow a user to create a new file that points to an existing file.

Hard links, however, allow the user to create a duplicate file that shares the same inode as the original file.

Syntax and Examples of ln command:

In Linux, we can use the ln command to create links.

By default, the ln command creates hard links. If you want to create symbolic links or soft links, you need to pass a flag to the command.

ln is followed by target file and linked file/directory. For symbolic links, we use -s flag followed by the target and link path.

For example, ln -s /home/user/files/data.txt ~/documents/link.txt. This command will create a symbolic link link.txt in the documents directory that points to the data.txt file in the files directory.

Updating and Overwriting Links:

Sometimes, when a new file is created or changed, it may cause some issues with the links that were previously created. To update a link, use the same ln command with the target file and the new link.

For instance, ln -sf /home/user/web/newfile /home/user/web/index.html will overwrite index.html with the target file newfile. Additionally, to prevent accidental overwriting, we can use interactive mode or force mode to specify the behavior when creating links.

Bonus Tip: Finding Original File from a Chain of Links:

We can use the readlink -f command to determine the original file that is being linked from a chain of links. This command will show the complete path of the original file.

For example, readlink -f ~/documents/file.txt will display the complete path to file.txt even if it is a link.

Practical Applications of Links

Why Do We Need Links?

Links are extremely useful in Linux for a variety of reasons.

For instance, when installing software, links can be created between the executable file and the system path. This allows the user to launch the software from any directory using a single command.

Examples of Links in the System:

In Linux, the /lib directory is known to contain the shared libraries that are required by different programs. However, instead of making a copy of the shared library for each program that needs it, links can be created.

Similarly, for applications that require specific files, links enable these files to be accessed by the program without copying them to every folder.


In conclusion, links are an essential aspect of Linux that save time, disk space and enable easy access to files.

With the above knowledge, you can make the most of your Linux experience by creating links quickly and efficiently. In this article, we have explored the three types of links in Linux, along with their syntax and examples of usage.

We have also discussed how to update and overwrite links, and how to find the original file from a chain of links. In the practical applications section, we have seen how links save time and disk space by eliminating the need to copy files.

As a final thought, understanding links is a crucial aspect of Linux, and the knowledge gained here enables readers to work more efficiently with their files and directories.

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