The file system tree

Like Windows, a Linux system organizes its files in what is called a hierarchical directory structure. This means that they are organized in a tree-like pattern of directories (sometimes called folders in other systems), which may contain files and other directories. The first directory in the file system is called the root directory. The root directory contains files and subdirectories, which contain more files and subdirectories and so on and so on.

Note that unlike Windows, which has a separate file system tree for each storage device, Linux system always have a single file system tree, regardless of how many drives or storage devices are attached to the computer. Storage devices are attached (or more correctly, mounted) at various points on the tree according to the whims of the system administrator, the person (or persons) responsible for the maintenance of the system.

Current working directory (pwd)

At any given time, we are inside a single directory and we can see the files contained in the directory and the pathway to the directory above us (called the parent directory) and any subdirectories below us. The directory we are standing in is called the current working directory. To display the current working directory, we use the pwd(print working directory) command.

$ pwd

When we first log in to our system (or start a terminal emulator session) our current working directory is set to our home directory. Each user account is given its own home directory and it is the only place a regular user is allowed to write files.


  • Book - Linux command line