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How to Use Mac Aliases

Shortcuts, in Windows, are icons that point to some other file, program, or disk drive. Macs have a similar feature called an alias. You can create an alias by clicking the name or icon of the file, program, or disk volume you want to alias and then choosing Make Alias from the Finder’s File menu. The keyboard incantation for making aliases: Command+L.

Just as in Windows, the alias icon appears with a little arrow at its lower left, and you can move the alias anywhere you want. You can even move it to the Trash if you no longer need it; the original file won’t go away.

Mac OS X has one big improvement over this Windows feature, however. In Windows, if you move the original file to another folder or change its name, Windows gets unhappy and doesn’t know where to find the file anymore. OS X keeps track of where the file went and just does the right thing. Of course, if you delete the original file, there’s not much OS X can do.

Watch out for aliases when you want to copy files to another medium, such as an external hard drive, CD-R, or flash drive. If you drag an alias, only the alias gets copied, not the file. To copy the file or folder the alias points to, click the alias and choose File→Show Original or just type Command+R.

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