Certified Supplier


We're an ISO27001:2013 Certified Supplier


One of the very powerful features of Linux file systems is symbolic links, more commonly known as soft links or simply symlinks. Symlinks make it much easier to get to a commonly used file or directory. Let’s assume we have a deep directory tree and want to make it easy to access myfile within it:

$ mkdir -p deep/directory/tree
$ ln -s deep/directory/tree shortcut
$ touch shortcut/myfile

Now we can refer to that file as either shortcut/myfile or deep/directory/tree/myfile from the current directory.

Symlinks can point to other symlinks. For example, on the Debian system I’m typing this on, /usr/bin/vim is a symlink:

$ file /usr/bin/vim
/usr/bin/vim: symbolic link to /etc/alternatives/vim

But the place it points to is also a symlink:

$ file /etc/alternatives/vim
/etc/alternatives/vim: symbolic link to /usr/bin/vim.gtk

That’s not an uncommon configuration to handle the update-alternatives(1) mechanism.

Finding the True Path

There’s a really simple what of finding out where the real file is: realpath. Here it is in action:

$ realpath shortcut/myfile 
$ realpath /usr/bin/vim

When we traverse symlinked directories to get to our working directory, it can even be confusing as to where we are, because pwd will show the path with symlinks:

$ cd shortcut
$ pwd

However, realpath can show where we really are:

$ realpath .

Was This Linux Tip Useful?

Let us know in the comments below.

1 thought on “Linux Tips: Finding the Real Path”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *