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I have several folders and files that I would like to link to a local folder that happens to be a Dropbox folder. Specifically I'd like to put Finder aliases to some files and some folders into a folder that is on Dropbox. What happens when I do this? What is synced to Dropbox? Is it just the Finder alias itself (a special kind of file only meaningful on macOS) or are the linked-to files or folders copied to Dropbox?

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The Finder alias will appear as a zero-byte file in Dropbox. Any files linked to it will not be uploaded.

If you would like to have Dropbox sync the contents of the alias, you can instead use what's called a symbolic link. Basically, it's an alias that the operating system (and Dropbox) treat as indistinguishable from the actual folder. This question on SuperUser answers how to create a symbolic link.

  • Good, that's the behavior I'm hoping for. (And it's also good to know that a symlink behaves as it should also; e.g. for backup.) – orome Sep 20 '16 at 16:50
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I tried putting an alias for my Documents folder in Dropbox (before macOS Sierra put the Documents folder in iCloud), and it didn't work. If I went to my Dropbox account online, there was a folder called "Documents," but it never synced any of the content.

I now use Cloud Storage Helper, which I believe uses symbolic links.

Be super careful about using that app, though. Without thinking, I put my Pictures folder in Dropbox - the Pictures folder contains Photos.app data. Every time I added a photo to Photos.app, it had to update Dropbox. And with thousands of photos, that file was at least 12Gbs. It took forever and caused horrible lag.

Just in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation, to fix this, I disabled Dropbox syncing then deleted the Pictures folder from Dropbox.com. This did not delete any of my photos on my computer and stopped the insane syncing problem.

  • What do you mean by "didn't work"? Thunderforge's answer suggests that it works exactly as one would expect. – orome Sep 20 '16 at 16:52
  • I elaborated in the following sentence. "...it didn't work. If I went to my Dropbox account online, there was a folder called Documents but it never synced any of the content." – TMHahn Sep 20 '16 at 16:53
  • There is no content. The alias is a special file containing a reference that's only meaningful on macOS. Do you mean not even that was synced to Dropbox (not that doing so would be the desired behavior)? – orome Sep 20 '16 at 16:56
  • Sounds like I misunderstood at some point! I was hoping to backup my Documents or Pictures to Dropbox with an Alias and that is what "didn't work." The symbolic links did what I needed. – TMHahn Sep 20 '16 at 17:21

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