Tips & Tricks: What’s Your Alias?

Front Row Alias Icon Example

Aliases in Mac OS X are essentially equivalent to shortcuts in the Windows world. They work by creating a link to an original file located somewhere on your Mac or network and maintain the link even if the original is moved or renamed.

How to Create Aliases

Creating aliases is pretty easy. You can right-click on a file and select “Make Alias” or choose “Make Alias” from the File menu. Viola! You have created an alias, indicated by the shortcut arrow on the icon and the word “alias” appended to the end of the file name.

If you want to create an alias and not have it include “alias” at the end, you can do so by holding down the command and option keys while dragging the desired file to a new location other than the original.

How to Ditch the Arrow

You can easily tell your aliases apart from your original files by the fact that aliases include a little arrow in their icon. For some, this may be a great reminder, but for others who may be creating collections of aliases for custom stacks in the Dock, or other reasons, the arrows may be annoying. Fortunately, with a little trip to the Terminal, we can solve this dilemma.

Essentially what we are going to do is take the graphic files that apply the arrow “badge” onto the icons and rename them so Mac OS X cannot find them. If your system cannot find the arrows, it cannot apply them to your aliases. This modification will affect all aliases on your Mac.

The first step is to fire up Terminal (located in the Utilities folder inside your Applications folder). At the command prompt, copy and paste the following line of code.

cd /System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources

This navigates to the location where the alias badge icons are stored. Then copy and paste this next line of code. It will require your administrator password after you execute the command.

sudo mv AliasBadgeIcon.icns AliasBadgeIcon_OFF.icns

For Terminal newbies, this command invokes “sudo,” which allows you to run powerful commands as another user, in this case, the “root” user. The “mv” command is Unix-talk for “move files.” In the example above, it simply causes the file to be renamed.

To see the changes, you can either restart your computer, or type in the following line of code. (In my tests using the latest builds of Snow Leopard, I actually had to restart the system to see the results).

killall Finder

To put them back, simply follow the steps again, but when you reach the sudo command, use this line of code.

sudo mv AliasBadgeIcon_OFF.icns AliasBadgeIcon.icns