Is there some way in which I can view/edit what the contents of a symbolic link are? I don't want to view the destination the link points to, but the symbolic link itself.

Suppose I have a file, file.txt and I create a link to file.txt as

    ln -s $HOME/path/to/file.txt .

Now, if I copy this link to a different system, this link will point to nothing if $HOME expands to something different on the other system, even if the path after $HOME is still the same. Is there some way to edit the link file so that $HOME is not expanded before creating the file, but is a part of the file itself?

  • Symbolic links don't store variable names. Your shell is expanding the variable before it gets to the ln executable. If you tried to copy it, cp would follow the link and copy the target. You can merely instruct cp to copy the link if that's what you want too. – Bratchley Jul 14 '13 at 22:06
  • @Gilles: Dynamic Symlinks are what I need! Thanks very much. – user1544430 Jul 14 '13 at 23:24

readlink will show you the content of the link, but the destination is all there is.

You can't put variables in a symbolic link, but you can make the paths relative. So if you have:


You could create the symlink as ../../../path/to/file.txt, it will point to file.txt regardless of what $HOME is.

ln -s ../../../path/to/file.txt $HOME/other/path/to/symlink.txt

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