I'm currently syncing my Desktop folder between two Macs using Dropbox. The Desktop folder in my Mac's user folder is an alias to the folder in my Dropbox. This works fine.

On one Mac, I created an alias to another folder on that computer (actually, it's an alias to the Dropbox folder itself, sitting on the desktop). When this alias syncs over to the other Mac, though, the alias doesn't come through correctly. It shows up as a 0 byte text file.

Is there a way that I can make this alias come through correctly to the other Mac and work as expected?


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In your specific situation, I would suggest creating something called a symbolic link. You will have to do the following from the Terminal:

  1. Open Terminal
  2. Type: cd ~/Desktop
  3. Type: ln -s /path/to/folder/ NAME

It will show up on your desktop and look like a regular alias, but it is not.

Adding an example: ln -s ~/Dropbox ~/Desktop/Dropbox

This will create a symbolic link on your desktop called "Dropbox" pointing to the /Users/YOURUSERNAME/Dropbox folder.

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  • Thanks for the response! Symbolic links do seem to sync properly - I'll replace my aliases with symbolic links - seems like the only way to get them to work. Much appreciated! – shedd Oct 10 '10 at 12:28
  • If I recall correctly, OS X uses a unique identifier to find the file which will not work when taken to another disk. It stores the path as a sort of "backup", but it is stored in a resource fork and I don't think too many programs play well with resource forks. This is why aliases do not work with Dropbox. – Nick Oct 11 '10 at 23:16

You may not be able to sync aliases, but you could replace the one on your desktop with an AppleScript that just opens the ~/Dropbox folder—that would have a similar effect, and to my knowledge would sync properly.

Such an AppleScript would look like

tell application "Finder"
    open folder "Macintosh HD:Users:yourHomeDirHere:Dropbox"
end tell

Or you could just put the ~/Dropbox folder in your Dock.

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  • Thanks! Yeah, aliases don't seem to sync properly. I'll have to ask Dropbox about this. What would an Apple Script that opens the ~/Dropbox folder look like? Thanks! – shedd Oct 10 '10 at 12:27

For those who are not comfortable using the Terminal, there is a much simpler solution to creating symbolic links in OS X.

There is a small free extension called SymbolicLinker that gives you an option in the contextual menu of the finder (i.e. right-clicking on a file or folder). It works great and I have used this method also for symlinking folders into Dropbox.

Installation of the extension is very simple. I have used this since OS X 10.4 all the way to Mavericks (10.9).

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