The term “absolute path” is a rather arcane one. It refers to the complete details needed to locate a file or directory, regardless of the current working directory. It’s the full “address” of a file or directory on a specific file system.
Using simpler speech, the “absolute path” is just the full listing of the location of a file or a folder/directory on a computer. It is sometimes known as the “full path.” The absolute path includes the complete location of the file or folder, including which drive it is on.
This term is used in various contexts, including web development, programming, and operating systems.
Absolute Path And Computer Filing Systems
In the context of a computer’s file system, an absolute path starts from the root directory.
For example, in a Unix-based system (like Linux or MacOS), an absolute path might look like this:
In this case,
/ is the root directory,
home is a directory in the root,
user is a directory in
documents is a directory in
example.txt is a file in the
In a Windows system, an absolute path might look like this:
C: is the drive partition, and the rest of the path uses backslashes
\ to separate directories and files.
Server systems are required to know the absolute path for every file that it has access to in order to locate it. Each different operating system (Windows, Linux, MacOS, etc) uses a different syntax or way to write an absolute path.
There is also a term called “relative path,” which refers to the location of a file in relation to the current location. For example, the above file in Windows might be listed as “\docs\blogpost1.txt” if you are currently in the “Billy” folder.
Absolute Path Purpose
The purpose of using an absolute path or URL is to provide a precise location of a file or resource, regardless of the context. This is useful in scenarios where a relative path (which is defined in relation to the current location) might be ambiguous or not sufficient.
Here are a few examples of when you might need to use an absolute path:
- Avoiding confusion in complex systems: In a complex system with many nested directories, it might be easier or safer to use absolute paths to ensure you’re always referring to the correct file.
- Scripting and automation: If you’re writing a script that needs to access certain files, using absolute paths can prevent errors that might occur if the script is run from a different directory.
- Navigating file systems: When working in a command line interface, you can use absolute paths to directly access any file or directory, regardless of your current location in the file system.
The only time you need to know and use absolute paths in WordPress is when you are a developer and you need to reference the exact location of a file when writing code. To find the absolute path of files used for WordPress, you can write three simple lines of code in PHP and store that information on your web server for use as a reference.
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