What is a Symbolic Link

In computing, a symbolic link is a reference from one location to another location in the file structure. Say you have File A which is located in directory /A. Now say you are working in directory /B and want to reference File A without having to spell out which directory it is in. Without symbolic links you would have to write out the whole path from directory /B to directory /A every time you want to access File A. This isn't that terrible with only two directories, but sometimes you would have to traverse a half dozen directory levels, and that can be time consuming and error prone.

A solution is a symbolic link. When you use a symbolic link you create a symbolic file that points somewhere else. So if you are working in directory /B you can create a symbolic link called File B which references File A. So now you have /A/File A and /B/File B only /B/File B is just a pointer to /A/File A.

Being a symbolic link, File B doesn't do anything other than point to File A. Now you do not have to traverse the file structure to fine File A every time you wish to use it.

On Windows operating systems a symbolic link cna be called a 'shortcut'. It's the same thing. If you have ever put a shortcut on your desktop you have created a symbolic link.

On unix-like operating systems you can use the command line to create a symbolic link. To do so you would:

ln -s original_file link_name

where original_file is the file you are linking to and the link_name is the name and location of the symbolic link you are creating.