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Manage Aliases on Your Mac

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 2/5/2009

Aliases represent a duplicate of an original icon for an application, document, or other item. Problems with aliases occur when the original file is no longer available, either because the item was moved to the Trash or the alias (instead of the original) has been accidentally burned to a CD or DVD.

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    Manage Mac Aliases

    Aliases can be created and placed in any folder on your Mac to provide access to the original item. An alias requires very little hard disk space because it is simply a link to another item on the computer. Creating aliases allows you to access the original file or folder from inside any folder.

    Aliases are pretty smart, too. You can rename the alias, the original file or folder, move the alias, or move the original, and the alias will still open the original file or folder (well, most of the time). You can even use an alias to create a shortcut to another hard disk.

    Problems with aliases occur when the original file is no longer available. This happens usually because the item was moved to the Trash or the alias (instead of the original) has been accidentally burned to a CD or DVD and the media does not have access to it. If you encounter a broken alias, you can delete it or try to repair it.

    Tip: Depending on the version of OS X you’re using, you might see an option called Fix Alias in the broken alias’ dialog box. The instructions here are for Panther.

    From the context menu of an alias (hold down the Control key and click the alias icon), there are two extremely useful options for working with aliases. You can choose Show Original to locate and access the original file, or you can choose Get Info to select a new original for a broken alias. If you only need access to the original, select Show Original. To select a new original for a broken alias and thus repair the alias:

    1. Hold down the Control key and click the alias’ icon.

    2. From the menu that appears, choose Get Info.

    3. In the Get Info dialog box, choose Select New Original.

    4. From the Select New Original dialog box, locate the original file or folder and choose Choose.

    5. Close the Alias Info dialog box; the alias is repaired.

    Tip: Remember that an alias is just that--an alias of the original file. Don’t burn an alias to a CD and head out to a presentation. You’ll be in for a shock when all you get is a broken alias warning box.