Directory and file management

Full pathnames

A full pathname (sometimes called an ``absolute pathname'') starts in the root directory and leads down through a unique sequence of directories to a particular directory or file. Because a full pathname always starts at the root of the file system, its leading character is always a / (slash). The final name in a full pathname can be either a file name or a directory name. All other names in the path must be directories. You can use a full pathname to reach any file or directory in the UNIX system in which you are working.

To understand how a full pathname is constructed and how it directs you, consider the following example. Suppose you are working in the starship directory, located in /home. You issue the pwd command and the system responds by printing the full pathname of your working directory: /home/starship.

The following figure and key diagrams the elements of this pathname:

/ (leading) the slash that appears as the first character in the pathname is the root of the file system
home system directory one level below root in the hierarchy to which root points or branches
/ (subsequent) the next slash separates or delimits the directory names home and starship
starship current working directory

Diagram of a full pathname

The following pathname:

causes a search of the root-directory for directory ``usr'', then a search of ``usr'' for ``bin'', finally to find ``send'' in ``bin''. The file ``send'' may be a directory, regular or special file. A null-prefix (or for that matter, any path-prefix without an initial ''/'') causes the search to begin in the current-directory of the user. Thus, the simplest form of pathname, ``alpha'', refers to a file found in the current-directory, and the pathname ``alpha/beta'' specifies the file named ``beta'' in sub-directory ``alpha'' of the current-directory. This relative pathname allows a user to quickly specify a sub-directory without needing to know (or input) the full pathname.

The dashed lines in ``Full pathname of the /home/starship directory'' trace the full path to /home/starship.

Full pathname of the /home/starship directory

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