I am editing a file which lives in a directory that is a symlink to another directory, i.e.

% ls -alh ~/www/experiments 
total 0
drwxr-xr-x 3 ubuntu ubuntu  80 Dec  5 19:52 .
drwxr-xr-x 3 ubuntu ubuntu  60 Dec  8 16:25 ..
lrwxrwxrwx 1 ubuntu ubuntu   8 Dec  5 19:52 tmp -> /tmp/web

so when I am editing the file:


Because the parent folder of webpage.php ( tmp ) is pointing to /tmp/web when I run the vimscript command

echo expand('%:p')

vim will echo the real file path, i.e.


how can I make vim expand the symlinked path in vimscript? i.e. the desired output would be:


I've looked in :h filename-modifiers and there doesn't seem to be anything about symlinks. Also looked at functions like resolve() - unfortunately I think resolve() does the opposite of what I want, it produces the real file path.

  • I don't there there's an easy way to do this; getcwd()and :pwd also always return the full path, rather than the symlinked path that the shell's pwd command or $PWD variable use (In other words, it looks like Vim normalises the path on open). Dec 10, 2016 at 2:01
  • @Carpetsmoker yes, and also linux doesn't allow hardlinking to directories - which might have been able to "fool" vim. I think I have a work around though, I'm just using the match() function and an if block to detect when the filepath expands to the /tmp location, and if so, then substitute() to "fix" the path Dec 10, 2016 at 2:05
  • I don't know what your goal is, but you can mount an NFS directory on the localhost to work around the inability to hardlink directories. On Linux you can also use mount --bind /src/ /dest, and on FreeBSD mount_nullfs /src /dest. Other systems may have similar constructs (e.g. directory junctions in Windows). Also see: What is a bind mount? at Unix.SE. Dec 10, 2016 at 2:07
  • @Carpetsmoker thanks for the info, mount --bind definitely looks interesting. I see what is a bind mount is one of Gilles' canonical answers. It usually takes me a day or two to get through those! I have finally got this working now anyway. The overall goal is that - when I am working on a webpage code file, and I want to view that files output in a browser, I simply hit a <Leader> mapping and vim launches a new browser tab with the corresponding URL for the file. Dec 10, 2016 at 2:21

1 Answer 1


Check if a path has a symlink anywhere in it, and if so return 1, otherwise 0

Pseudocode: Use the shell to convert the symlink path to the path it points to. If the two paths are identical then it's not a symlink. Otherwise it is.

function! IsPathSymlinkPath(foo)
    "Sorry for the incantations.  Level 9 hax required.
    if ( substitute( 
        \ system('readlink -f ' . 
        \ a:foo), '^\s*\(.\{-}\)\_s*$', '\1', '') == 
        \ substitute(a:foo, '^\s*\(.\{-}\)\s*$', '\1', '') 
        \ )
        return 1

echo IsPathSymlinkPath("/home/el/symlink/somefile")
"returns 1

echo IsPathSymlinkPath("/home/el/normal/somefile")
"returns 0

Or you could do it using vimscript's resolve and expand code

function! IsSymlinkPath(mypath)
    let resolved_expanded = resolve(expand(a:mypath))
    let trim_and_flatten_path = substitute(
        \ resolved_expanded, '^\s*\(.\{-}\)\s*$', '\1', '')
    let trim_original_mypath  = substitute(
        \ a:mypath, '^\s*\(.\{-}\)\s*$', '\1', '') 
    if ( trim_and_flatten_path == trim_original_mypath )
        return 1

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