On Windows, you create shortcuts. On Mac? There’s this little thing called aliases. Aliases are shortcuts that make it easier to find a file, folder, disk, or application. You can place aliases on your desktop, in the Dock, or anywhere else that’s easy to find. In this tutorial, I’ll show you two easy ways to create aliases on your Mac.

Why create file or folder shortcuts?

Shortcuts (known as aliases on Mac) simply are a quick way to access files and folders without moving these files and folders. If the “aliases” name can be confusing on Mac, Windows makes this much clearer by calling them shortcuts. They just make accessing files or folders faster.

How to use aliases to create shortcuts on Mac

Step 1: right click on the object that you’d like to point the alias to.

Step 2: click Make Alias.

Create Alias Mac

The alias will be created and placed in the same folder of the originating object. Aliases are denoted by the shortcut that resides in the bottom left-hand corner of its app icon. You can then take that alias, and place it in a convenient location of your choice. You can also rename the alias and it won’t interfere with the link to the original object.

There is a better, more efficient way to create aliases on Mac.

Hold Option (⌥)+Command (⌘) and drag the object that you wish to create an alias from to your desired location. This will kill all birds with one stone. It will create the alias, it will move it to your desired location, and it won’t leave any lingering aliases in the original location.

When you open the alias, it will open directly to the originating object. It’s a great way to make quick shortcuts to often used files buried deep inside OS X’s directory structure.

If you would like to quickly identify the original file location, right click on the alias file and click Show Original. You can also use Command (⌘)+R.

Show Original Alias Mac

Be sure to watch the video walkthrough for a more in-depth look at the two methods described above.

Do you use aliases on your Mac? Sound off with your reasoning down below in the comment section.

  • No One Important

    I do use aliases. Mainly to put my music, photos, and movies folder in my documents folder so that I can have quick access since documents is on my dock.

  • andyr354

    Thanks for the keyboard shortcut tip, if I can remember it. So many shortcuts.

  • Skoven

    I use a combination of aliases and symbolic links.

    While aliases if fine for some things, symbolic links are much more powerfull and useful for other things, especially those relating to online file storage/synchronisation.

    Symlinks are great if you want to preserve a specific folder structure on our HDD, but still have some of those folders synchronised with eg. Dropbox. Dropbox (and a lot of the other sync services) only allows content INSIDE their folder to be synced. If you create a symbolic link to the folder you want to sync, and move that symbolic link to the dropbox folder, dropbox will think that you moved the actual folder to the dropbox directory – as opposed to an alias which dropbox will see as a single shortcut file and not as an actual folder.

    This method is also great for “linking” the PhotoBooth folder (or any other folder that can’t be moved: your iTunes music folder perhaps) to an online storage/synchronisation folder.

    You can use terminal to create symbolic links, or simply use the app SymbolicLinker (google it) to create symbolic links (it adds a contextual menu plugin to finder, making it very easy to create symlinks). And yes, the app/script is quite old, but it still works in Yosemite.

    Perhaps you could do a tutorial for using Symbolic links as well Jeff? I think some people would find it quite useful, if you show what people can do with it.

    • I use symlinks for my iTunes library, yep. Nice explanation. I’ll have to put this on my to do list.

      • Carlos Medina

        iTunes already has an automatic itunes alias that does it automatically if im not mistaken its in the music/iTunes/iTunes Media/ and in there is a folder that say “Automatically Add to iTunes” so you can just drag and drop and album and bam it syncs it and sorts it on your itunes. Not sure if you knew but i assume you did lol.