Mac OS X comes with a built in ability to mac an “alias” to a file or folder which is different than a true symbolic link. By simply holding down the OPTION and APPLE/COMMAND keys at the same time and clicking on the file or folder, you can drag and create one.
Once you have this “alias” you can locate it anywhere you like. It is basically a pointer to the original file and for the most part acts as though it is the original file or folder. If you double click the alias, the original file or folder opens up just like you clicked the real item.
OK, none of this is earth shattering. But the alias capability does not work with some things. For example, EyeTV is a video recording and playback application usually called a PVR. It records shows to a default location inside your home folder. But what if you would rather have these HUGE video files recorded to another location, say on an external drive or a NAS drive. Well EyeTV does not give you an option to change the location it stores files.
But you can trick it….
What if you made an alias which points to the folder where you wanted to store the video files? Then you could rename the alias to be called “EyeTV Archive” and put this alias in the right location in your home folder (I think EyeTV wants it in the ~/Documents folder). Then you would think that EyeTV would go looking for the folder to store or playback a video file and the alias would point it to the remote drive where the videos were actually stored.
Well, this is almost correct. Except that EyeTV (and many other applications) get confused about this “alias” thing and think its a normal file instead of a link to a location. But since Mac OS X is unix underneath, there is another type of link that you can make that applications ARE able to follow. Its called a symbolic link.
I have used these many times. Symbolic Links create pointers to files and folders just like an alias does. But for some reason they seem to work with more applications and don’t have the limitations of the alias. But in the old days (before today!) I used to have to go to a unix shell in remember how to use the ln command. This was not all that hard, but it was kind of a pain.
Today I found Symbolic Linker (PS: Right-Click on the download link and SAVE AS otherwise you might get the data showing in your browser window) which is a nifty piece of freeware. Once you install it (make sure to read the readme instructions!) it allows you to simply right-click on a file or folder and select Make Symbolic Link down at the bottom. Then you get something that looks just like an alias, but functions a lot better.