Making an alias for a Mac application, folder, or file, offers an easy way to access that item without having to track down its original location. Instead, you can place an alias anywhere and it will launch the original item immediately, while the original item remains in its original location. An alias on the Mac works similar to how a Shortcut does on Windows, and you can store them anywhere you want.
Aliases have been around on the Mac for a very long time, but they’re often underutilized in the modern era due to other features like Spotlight, Launchpad, and the Dock. We’re going to offer a quick review of making aliases on the Mac to offer shortcut access to any files, folders, documents, or applications.
How to Create an Alias on the Mac of Any File, Application, or Folder
If you can select an item in the Finder, you can create an alias of it, here is how:
- Using the Finder, locate the item you want to create an alias of
- Select the item in the Finder then pull down the “File” menu and choose “Make Alias”
- Locate the newly created alias (it will share the same name of the original but include ‘alias’ after the name) and place the alias where you would like it to be stored
- Repeat as necessary for additional aliases
An alias is indicated by the little arrow badge sitting over the corner of the alias icon.
In this example we’re created a new folder called “Games” on the desktop and aliased various games from the /Applications folder into that Games directory. Note that the original games are in their original location, it is only the aliases contained within the newly created “Games” directory.
You can use this folder of aliases trick to create quick-launch panels in the Mac Dock, just drag that folder of aliases into the right hand side of the Dock and it will become an easily accessible launch panel of whatever aliases are stored within that folder.
Aliases are also great for quick access to a series of files that are spread throughout the operating system or file system, and when you’d like to maintain their original location but still want fast access to a series of files or folders in the same spot.
Another great use of aliases is for offering a shortcut to a frequently accessed location on the Mac; rather than dig around in the file system over and over again, just make an alias of that buried location folder or file.
Old school Mac users may find it fun to use aliases (or symlinks) to put a Trash can on the Mac desktop too.
Keyboard shortcut to create alias on Mac: Command L
If you select an item in the Finder and then hit Command + L you will instantly create an alias of the selected item.
Another nice option is to hold down Option and Command as you drag and drop to create an alias instead of moving a file.
Users with a linux or unix background can think of an alias like a symbolic link at the command line, and users from a Windows background can think of an alias like a Shortcut. It’s really quite similar, the alias is simply a reference to the original item.
You can delete aliases and it will not delete the original file – as long as you certain you are removing the alias as indicated by the little arrow badge, or by inspecting the item with Get Info, which will show “alias” as the type.
Have any other tips or tricks for aliases on the Mac? Let us know in the comments!