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In an OS X terminal session, if I do a ls -l I saw several of that listing. What does -> ./yyyy tell me about the xxxx file?

xxxx -> ./yyyy

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

That means that the xxxx file is a symlink to the ./yyyy file. A symlink is basically an alias or shortcut to the source file (./yyyy here). This has a decent explanation of symlinks and how to use them:

Symbolic Links are an older feature that harken back to the BSD roots of Mac OS X. These files simply contain the path of the target file or directory stored as text. If you move the target file, the symlink will break because it still points to the original location in the link. However, symlinks work at a low-level such that almost all applications and OS features will follow them to the target.

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It means that the file is a symbolic link. For example /etc is a symlink to private/etc and /tmp is a symlink to private/tmp.

$ cd /
$ ls -l
total 16437
drwxrwxr-x+ 157 root  admin     5338 Feb 23 16:11 Applications
drwxr-xr-x+  67 root  wheel     2278 Feb 23 14:31 Library
drwxr-xr-x@   2 root  wheel       68 Aug 25  2013 Network
drwxr-xr-x+   5 root  wheel      170 Feb 23 15:34 System
drwxr-xr-x    7 root  admin      238 Feb 23 14:42 Users
drwxrwxrwt@   3 root  admin      102 Feb 23 16:00 Volumes
drwxr-xr-x@  39 root  wheel     1326 Jan 29 11:44 bin
drwxrwxr-t@   2 root  admin       68 Aug 25  2013 cores
dr-xr-xr-x    3 root  wheel     4434 Feb 22 23:12 dev
lrwxr-xr-x@   1 root  wheel       11 Jan 29 11:37 etc -> private/etc
dr-xr-xr-x    2 root  wheel        1 Feb 23 16:27 home
-rwxr-xr-x@   1 root  wheel  8393256 Sep 20 08:22 mach_kernel
dr-xr-xr-x    2 root  wheel        1 Feb 23 16:27 net
drwxr-xr-x    4 root  wheel      136 Feb 23 14:31 opt
drwxr-xr-x@   7 root  wheel      238 Feb 23 14:31 private
drwxr-xr-x@  62 root  wheel     2108 Jan 29 11:45 sbin
lrwxr-xr-x@   1 root  wheel       11 Jan 29 11:37 tmp -> private/tmp
drwxr-xr-x@  15 root  wheel      510 Feb 23 15:40 usr
lrwxr-xr-x@   1 root  wheel       11 Jan 29 11:37 var -> private/var

You can also see the target of a symlink with readlink or stat -f%Y:

$ readlink /etc
private/etc
$ stat -f%Y /etc
private/etc
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