MacMost Now 281: Using Aliases For Quick Access To Files and Folders

You can use aliases to create shortcuts to files and folders. You can also put aliases in the Dock and the Finder sidebar. Aliases help you keep your files organized while allowing for quick access to files you use often.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. Today's episode lets take a closer look at finder aliases. So an alias, sometimes called a shortcut, is a link to a file or folder somewhere on your mac. But it doesn't have to be in the same place as the original file or folder. It's kind of this quick way to get to that file or folder without having to go to it's location. Let me show you an example.
Now to create an alias what you need to do is hold the command and option keys and drag a file from a location to another. So, lets take this text.txt file and drag it to the desktop. Now you'll immediately notice that my cursor changes to this little curved arrow and when I drop it I get a icon that looks just like the original but has a little curved arrow there at the bottom. Now I've got the original document here in my documents folder I've got an alias to it here on my desktop. This is always the original document. If I double click on the alias, it will open text edit and I will see the contents of the file but I'm actually looking at the file here in the documents folder the same way I would if I clicked on it's, in the documents folder.
Now I can also do the same thing with the folder. I've got a folder here called my folder. We're going to command option and drag it over here to the desk top and I've got a folder here, it's got the little curved arrow there at the bottom left hand corner. I can also access the contents by going into the documents folder and clicking on the folder there or I can access them by double clicking on the folder here.
Another way you can create an alias is by right clicking or control clicking on the item and choosing make alias. It will create a alias to the item with the word alias after it. You could see there is a little curved arrow even in that tiny icon there. SO you could then go ahead and drag this alias to some other location. Uh, a great thing about aliases is that you can drag the alias somewhere else on your drive and it will still work, you can drag the original item somewhere else on your drive and it will still work. These two are linked together no matter where you place them on your hard drive. If you ever want to find out where the original is for an alias cause you've forgotten, got ahead and right or control click on the alias and you'll get an item here to show original. It will open up the folder if not already opened up and highlight the original item that's linked to this alias.
Now you can do some interesting things by combining real folders and aliases. So for instance I'm going to create a new folder by hitting command shift new and I'm going to create it on the desktop. I'm gonna call this folder Important Stuff. And the idea is I'm going to create aliases in here that link to important files that are all over my hard drive. So lets go ahead and do command shift option and drag this text.txt file in it. Let's also go ahead and grab this file here and lets do one last one, let's drag this one here. And now if I open up this folder, I can see I've got aliases to those three items there. So these could be unrelated items that simply related because they are important to me even though they are found in all sorts of different places on my hard drive.
Another type of alias is one that's found in the side bar in your finder. So you've got this area here on the left side, and you've got this area called places. And then you can drag any folder from the finder into here. You don't have to hold any special keys down it automatically knows it's creating an alias cause that's all you can really do. And you can put it right there. Now, I have quick access, if I'm somewhere else, like I'm at this level and I wanna get to my folder I just click there and I'm instantly there. Now what's even better than that is that when you are in, say some sort of application like here's text edit and I want to save this file. In the save and open dialogues you have this same left sidebar here. So I can go and quickly find my folder and go to it and save items there.
Now you can not only make aliases out of files and folders, but you can also make them out of shared folders and external hard drives. So for instance, if you logged onto a shared drive of another machine or perhaps one thats hooked up to your router, you can go ahead and option command drag that created alias to it. Now the cool thing about that is that in order to log on to that server instead of having to go to connect and find that particular server and all that your alias acts as the full bit of information to log onto that server. And if you have lots of shared folders and lots of external drives you'll notice how they clutter your desktop and you can actually turn that off in your finder preferences just show external drives and show shared drives. Well you turn that off and you can still see them on your desktop or somewhere else by using aliases to those shared folders or external drives.
Now, another place you can put aliases besides the left finder sidebar is the dock. It works in kind of the same way. You drag a folder or a file and do it to the right side of the dock you drop it there and it instantly know it's an alias. The original is never in the dock the dock doesn't store original items. But you've got the original there and you've got an alias to it here. Now it appears as a stack like that. You can actually control how it looks. You can have it just be a folder which is basically a plain alias or a stack with a fan grid or list view. Now, you can combine this with things like the important stuff folder that we created. Go ahead and drag that into the dock. And now you've got instant access to those very important files. So, another thing I could do with that is say create a new folder and call it my favorite apps. And I can then go into my applications folder I can command option drag items from there. Now if I look in that favorite apps folder I've got three apps there. I drag that into my dock and I click on it and I've got a list of apps there. I can even do something like this. I can ahead and take my entire hard drive, drag that into the dock, and what I've got here is I've got a link to everything. I can change that to be a list view. And now I can go ahead and dig really deep into my entire hard drive accessing just about everything on it.
So there's a detailed look at how you can use aliases to have quicker access to the files and applications on your mac while still staying organized.
Now next week I'm going to have an important MacMost announcement. The first to know will be those that follow me on Twitter and those that follow MacMost on Facebook. Till next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 3 Responses to “MacMost Now 281: Using Aliases For Quick Access To Files and Folders”

    J.P.
    8/27/09 @ 9:36 am

    Is it true that the finder will be quicker if you clutter your desktop with alias’ rather than their originals?

      8/27/09 @ 10:13 am

      No. I’ve never heard that. Don’t see how it would be true.

    jacob e
    5/5/10 @ 9:42 am

    thanks man your good and your editing and production is clean.

Comments Closed.