Symbolic links are one of my favorite pragmatic best practice to manage a file system. Last week, I had a bug to fix in an iOS app. Soon enough, symbolic links became my number one suspect for the case. My problem was that Organizer has a poor support of symbolic links and it’s not very helpful when you want to check symbolic links targets on a full app file system.

I had to develop some file system inspector code to help me debug the app and this is what I want to share here. Before diving into the details, however, I must emphasize a crucial lesson learned during the bug-fixing process:

⚠️ Avoid Absolute Target Paths for Symbolic Links:

In the intricate dance of app updates on the App Store, relying on absolute target paths for symbolic links can lead to unexpected consequences. Your app’s file system might waltz into a different home directory with each update, causing potential chaos. As a precautionary measure, opt for relative paths to ensure a smoother transition during updates.

Anyway, I’ve created a FileSystemExplorer tool, that will help you generate the following kind of output when you run it inside your app.

Download FileSystemExplorer here:

Notice the ---> and -x-> arrows which might help you determine if items are symbolic links and whether the file they target still exist or not. Please leave a message if you found this bit of code helpful!

Typical use case would probably to run [FileSystemExplorer exploreFileSystem]; from your app’s delegate’s application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:.

|- Documents
|- help.html
   |- Archives
      |- 1321890697466 -x-> 1328706604700
      |- 1321890697467 ---> 1328706604701
      |- 1328697746363
         |- images
            |- screenshot.png
            |- icon.png
      |- 1328706604701
         |- export.xml
         |- html
            |- help.html
            |- index.html
   |- etc
|- Library
   |- Caches
      |- com.mycompany.myapp
         |- Cache.db
   |- Preferences
      |- .GlobalPreferences.plist -x-> /Users/user/.../Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist
      |- ---> /Users/user/.../Library/Preferences/
      |- com.mycompany.myapp.plist
|- tmp