Symbolic links are similar to aliases, in that they are shortcuts that link to a specific file or folder. But symbolic links are often more useful than aliases. For example, if you put an alias in your Dropbox folder, the synchronising service will sync just the alias file; but put a symbolic link in that folder, and Dropbox will sync the original file the link points to. Also, symbolic links work in Mac OS X’s Unix-based tools, including Terminal, whereas aliases don’t.

Unfortunately, while the Finder makes it easy to create aliases (Control-click and select Make Alias), it doesn’t have any such built-in tools for creating symbolic links (also called sym links). For that, you usually have to turn to Terminal. But there are workarounds that allow you to create sym links from within the OS X graphical user interface. Some of these methods rely on AppleScript. Some rely on third-party utilities such as the free Symbolic­Linker (www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/system_disk_utilities/symboliclinker.html). But there is another way, using a shell script and Automator.

Start by opening Automator and selecting Service from the list of templates. Next, select Files or Folders from the Service Receives Selected drop-down menu and choose Finder.app from the In menu. Drag the Run Shell Script action from the Utilities section of the Actions library. Select As Arguments from the Pass Input menu.

Now type the script Create Sym Link (www.macworld.com/6548) into the Run Shell Script window, replacing any text that might be there already. Once you’ve entered the script, drag the View Results action from the same library so that it follows the Run Shell Script action. Save the workflow (it should automatically be added to youruserfolder/Library/Services), giving it whatever name you want. That done, Control-click on a file in the Finder, then select your service from the Services submenu; a sym link (with the word link appended to the filename) should appear in the same folder as the original file.