Help me understand symbolic links

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Thread: Help me understand symbolic links

  1. #1


    Join Date: Nov 2010
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    Help me understand symbolic links

    edit: I'm working on Windows 7, and currently using Link Shell.

    I'm currently working at my local college, and I'm trying to see if I can use symlinks to potentially solve some issues. Mainly, I'd like to get around distributing documents, because every time a document gets copied, there's a chance it won't get updated if something changes. Google Docs, or even OneDrive, would be perfect for this, but the school doesn't want to use cloud storage, and setting up a local OneDrive server would be too big a project to quickly implement.

    I've been looking into using symbolic links. The idea is, instead of emailing someone a spreadsheet, you send them a link to a spreadsheet on a shared drive. They can use it like normal, saving it or doing whatever they do with it, only they're moving a link around; if something changes and I need to update the content on the spreadsheet, the link sends them to the current version of the document, so I don't need to worry about re-distributing it every time there's a change, and risk someone not replacing their old file with the new one.

    I downloaded Link Shell and it seems to be working perfectly. The only issue I'm running into is that I can't seem to email the symlink. Attaching it to an email attaches the actual file instead of the symlink. I can move the link around no problem locally, but as soon as I send it to someone, it drops the actual file in.

    Is there a way to copy/distribute symbolic links? I've been trying to google it, but I'm having trouble finding results that answer my question. Ideally, I'd like to be able to email the symlink itself, and not have the symlink insert the file into the email.

  2. #2


    Join Date: Jan 2016
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    Symlinks are a filesystem-level feature. Instead of copying the file to a second directory, it gives programs access to the original file instead. From the point of view of a program, it's the same thing as the original file. If the program can copy or download it, it can still do that even with a symlink.

    Even then, it's the same as sending a plain old SMB link, such as //COMPUTER-NAME-HERE/drive_c/dos/dosbox/tyrian/manual/0/.tmp/error/5/20_JessicaAlba.jpg. This way, the users will open the original file and your version of Office might or might not handle editing that, I think only the Business versions could.

  3. #3


    Join Date: Nov 2010
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    Thanks for the help. Sadly, I don't think this will do what I want.

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  5. #4


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    Quote Originally Posted by petarkablam View Post
    //COMPUTER-NAME-HERE/drive_c/dos/dosbox/tyrian/manual/0/.tmp/error/5/20_JessicaAlba.jpg.
    I've been clicking this but it doesn't seem to work.


  6. #5


    Join Date: Sep 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil View Post
    Thanks for the help. Sadly, I don't think this will do what I want.
    If you're all editing the same thing, perhaps a CVS repository will do what you're looking for?

  7. #6


    Join Date: Nov 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    If you're all editing the same thing, perhaps a CVS repository will do what you're looking for?
    Checking that out as we speak.

    I don't think editing is totally necessary, but it wouldn't hurt. In a nutshell, at the college, it's a huge hassle dealing with shared information. If someone needs to send a spreadsheet to a bunch of people, they'll email it out to everyone. The email itself holds onto the file, and most people will also save that file to their local hard drive.

    The problem is the content in that spreadsheet can change, usually multiple times (more like multiple times a week ). So something changes, and a new email gets sent with the updated spreadsheet. Now people have a second email they have to deal with, and they need to replace their old file with the new one. Only people get missed during distribution, people accidentally delete the email, they don't download the new file, or they download the new file but don't delete the old one, and end up referring to the old information.

    This is terrible, and I'm sorry in advance. I know very little about computers, and I think in pictures.

    Here's what we currently do:



    And here's what I'd like us to do:



    I'm trying to figure out if there's a way that everyone can view the same file, so if the author needs to change something, they can just update it, and the next time someone else views it, they'll be seeing the updated version.

    It's a lot of old people who are stuck in their ways, and it's hard to implement new workflows, so I'm hoping to find a way where someone can "download" the "file" from the email, store it wherever they want on their local drive, but when they go to access it, they're actually being redirected to the original file.

    Google Docs or Office 365/One Drive would do this, but yeah, the college doesn't want to use cloud storage, and I'm told setting up our own, local One Drive server would be too big a project to implement any time soon.

    Editing would be nice, but not always necessary. If I can be picky, permissions would be best. But I'm past being picky.

  8. #7


    Join Date: Sep 2008
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    Why don't you just set up an ownCloud server? It's like Dropbox on a server you host.

    Looks like this when you log into the web interface, and has a Windows/Mac/Linux sync client, as well as an Android and iOS client.

    https://cloud.biesiadecki.org/index....QG23LTOWPQ2Na0

    ownCloud.org.

  9. #8


    Join Date: Sep 2008
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    P.S. if you would like an account on my server to check out the clients and stuff, PM me.

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