The University of Pennsylvania's Online Computing Magazine

PENN PRINTOUT February 1992 - Volume 8:5

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By any other name: System 7 aliases

By Dan Dougherty

One of the useful features of System 7.0 for the Macintosh is aliases. An alias is a small (1 to 3 Kbyte) file with its own icon that is a stand-in for a program, document, or folder. You may also think of an alias as a pointer to an original application, file, or volume.

Creating an alias

To make an alias, simply highlight the desired icon and select Make Alias from the File menu. The file name of the new alias icon will be italicized and have the word "alias" in it; for example, an alias of the application Microsoft Excel will appear as Microsoft Excel alias. You may edit the file name but not change its font style.

Why use aliases

On stand-alone Macintoshes you can use aliases in many interesting ways. If you are in the habit of leaving the icons of frequently used applications, such as MacWrite II or Word, on the desktop, make aliases for them and place the aliases in the Apple Menu Items folder. The next time you want to run one of these applications, just go to the apple menu and select its alias from the drop-down list.

If you miss the Set Startup feature of previous System versions, put the aliases of the applications you want to start automatically into the Startup Items folder in the System Folder. The applications will run the next time you turn on your computer.

Getting organized

There is no limit to the number of aliases you can make for an icon. To better organize your hard drive, try grouping document files in folders by task or project, and include aliases of the necessary applications in each folder. The amount of extra disk space you use is negligible, since the applications themselves are not duplicated.

If you need free space on your hard drive, archive less important documents to a labeled diskette and make aliases to copy back to your hard drive. Next time you need to examine an archived letter, select its alias and you will be prompted for the appropriate diskette.

If you need to identify the original from which an alias was made, simply highlight the alias and select Get Info from the File menu. The Get Info dialog box will list the path to the folder where the original resides. Clicking the Find Original button at the bottom of the dialog box will open the window of the folder where the original is located.

When an alias is no longer needed, you should delete it. This will have no effect on the original. If you delete the original file, application, or folder from which an alias was made and later double- click the alias, an alert message will notify you that the original cannot be found.

Aliases and AppleTaalk networks

Macintoshes on AppleTalk networks have the added power of using aliases across the network. You can access an original file on a server by double-clicking its alias on your desktop. Placing a file in the alias of a project folder on your desktop will place a document in the original folder on the network server. Using aliases will not, however, circumvent security on the server; access privileges are still required.

Explore System 7.0 and discover how so-called complexities, such as aliases, easily become features that you can't imagine living without.

DAN DOUGHERTY is a Consultant for the Computing Resource Center.