I have a folder containing several alias for pdf's that each have > 200 mb. Each pdf is in a different location on my drive.

I need to compress all of those files.

What is the fastest way to do it?

There is always the slow way of going to each of the alias, right clicking it, copying the original to a predefined folder, repeat this procedure for every alias and finally compress the folder with all the original pdfs

Evidently this will take forever! Is there a fastest way? For example using Terminal.

Related, Is it possible to copy the original file of an alias using keyboard shortcuts?

4 Answers 4


Smart Folders are a great way to accomplish your desired result of gathering the files. No matter where the file is on your drive, all can be selected then compressed.

Create a Smart Folder In the Finder, choose File > New Smart Folder, or press options++N.

To search for files, enter a topic, a phrase, or another parameter in the search field.

To determine whether the search should include only the names of files or their entire contents, choose “Name matches” in the menu that appears below the search field, then click Name, then choose either Filename or Everything.

To search for additional specific attributes, click the Add button (+) below the search field, then make choices using the search attribute pop-up menus that appear.

The menus work in pairs; for example, to search for images, you choose Kind from the pop-up menu on the left, then choose Images from the pop-up menu next to it.

Click Save, then specify a name and location for your Smart Folder.

If you don’t want your Smart Folder to be in the sidebar, deselect Add To Sidebar.

You can’t use certain characters, including punctuation such as a colon (:), in folder names. If an error message appears, try using another name. You can then save the folder for future use.

When you are satisfied that you have the files you need, select them and then compress.

Smart Folder

  • 1
    Smart Folders is a feature that I was not aware and I think it will greatly simplify my life. Thank you! But in this case I don't think this is solving my current problem is it? I mean, it can prevent it from happening again, but what can I do currently?
    – gota
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 22:16
  • Should be able to. If you know the criteria for the files you need, you can create the folder now. No need to go to all the work of tracing down the alias'. For example, does each file have a common name? Add that. Common Date?
    – bjbk
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 2:29
  • Unfortunately there is no pattern associated with each file! Not a common name nor common date nor common file type, nothing, just random files
    – gota
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 20:03

There is a free app called AliasHerder whose only purpose is to do exactly this. You can get it here. Although the app is deprecated it works just fine on my system (10.10.1). You simple drag the folder with the aliases onto the app and it replaces all aliases with the original files.

  • Sounds like a great option, at least for as long as it continues to function on new versions of macOS.
    – Tuesday
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 14:50

If you aren't scared of bash scripting, one possibility might be to use getTrueName.c. There are a number of ways you could go about it that I can think of, but here's one:

  1. Install the getTrueName script somewhere.
  2. Run getTrueName on all the files in the directory with your aliases.
  3. Iterate cp over that list and the path to a new directory that you want to copy them all to.
  4. Compress that folder.

If you need more detailed instructions, let me know and I'll edit my answer.


All you should have to do is copy the aliases to a different folder with 'cp', then compress them as normal. By copying the alias, the terminal will by default copy the original file, rather than the alias shortcut itself.

Of course, you'll still have to specify the path to the alias file in each 'cp' command, if they are in different folders; but, I think this is about as fast as you could most easily do it.

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