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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar Network
Earlier today, while testing another 10.5 hint (not yet published), I ran into something that's quite disconcerting, and could potentially lead to some lost data, if not just a lot of confusion. In a nutshell, here's the problem, which I've verified in both 10.4 and 10.5...

Say you've got Mac1 and Mac2, and you've connected to Mac2 from Mac1. There's a folder on Mac2 that you use regularly, so you make an alias to it in your Hot Stuff folder in Mac1's Documents folder. To make accessing it easier, you then do the obvious thing, and drag it into your sidebar. But you want to know that folder's on your remote Mac, so you control-click on it in the sidebar and choose the Rename option from the pop-up menu. You rename Projects to Projects - Mac2. When you do that, you've just renamed the actual Projects folder on Mac2 to Projects - Mac2!

The entry in the sidebar is, basically, a direct connection to the remote folder, not a representation of the local alias you created. And while my example is relatively harmless, consider if I had instead created an alias to my user's Library folder on the other Mac; rename that, and you'll find all your settings missing on Mac2 (as the system will create a new Library folder for you as soon as it needs to work with it again). They haven't been deleted, but you'll be quite confused for a while, to say the least.

I made a (somewhat confusing) movie of this process, just to demonstrate how it works. Basically, what you'll see is the creation (on the desktop) of an alias from a folder on another Mac, the renaming of that alias folder on the desktop (which works as expected), and then what happens when that folder is moved to the sidebar and (again) renamed.

In short, the sidebar does not treat local aliases properly at all. As soon as you move the alias to the sidebar, it seems as though OS X resolves the path to the original object. From that point on, any changes you make to the filename of the folder are actually made to the original file. This is not at all what I would expect to happen, and it's not what happens with the alias in the Finder. When you rename an alias in the Finder, that name change is local; the parent folder on the remote Mac isn't touched. A local alias in the sidebar shouldn't behave any differently than a local alias in a Finder window. (Things are a bit different if you create an entry directly in the sidebar, by dragging from the remote volume to the sidebar -- I'm not sure how that should work.)

So be aware, if you're using the sidebar to store local aliases of networked folders, do not try to rename those folders in the sidebar (unless you really want the original folder renamed).
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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar | 15 comments | Create New Account
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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: fds on Nov 08, '07 04:53:07PM

The sidebar sure isn't very intuitive.

Just today I wanted to exclude the Movies folder from the Time Machine backup, so I grabbed it from the Finder sidebar and dropped it onto the exclusion list.

Of course the Sidebar item just went poof and nothing got added.

You really have to stop and think before manipulating items on the Finder sidebar.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: sparkrainfire on Nov 08, '07 05:43:41PM

I made a big mistake that cost me my iPhoto library. Frustrated with how iphoto 08 handles the library I right click the library and "show package co tents" I then added the "originals" folder to the sidebar. This was seemingly great because I then had access to my photos with out showing the package contents... I renamed the sidebar entry to "iPhoto" and the next day I noticed that my photos were not showing up in iPhoto.... I didn't even think that the folder got re named, I just thought that I lost my originals folder some how. Instead of looking in my package for a iPhoto folder I tried to restore the library. Now all of my photos are missing. Thankfully I had a semi recent back up at home, however I'm still missing the past months worth of imports... Ugh! Side note: please excuse any typos I'm writing this message on my iPod touch as my laptop is sick at the shop



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: lieb on Nov 08, '07 06:17:21PM

I discovered this some time ago. I work with several web servers that use the same name for their document directory. So I named the folders in my Finder sidebar with the server names. Boy was I surprised when my web server coulnd't find its documents anymore. On, and these servers are Linux mounted with SMB so its not just a Mac to Mac thing.
Paul



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: davidm on Nov 08, '07 06:41:32PM

Another sidebar issue: when I drag folders from my iDisk (mirrored locally) to the sidebar, they disappear from the sidebar on restart or re-login. This seriously disrupts my workflow as I am always working with files on my iDisk from both my two Macs. Having to recreate the same items in the sidebar every day is no fun.

David



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: astrosmash on Nov 08, '07 07:32:33PM

It doesn't surprise me that the Finder sidebar dereferences aliases. Having written similar functionality in a Windows application a few years back, it's not terribly clear how aliases should be handled. You can make a case either way, and certainly there are lots of reasons why dereferencing an alias can make things easier for the user.

Of course, the big hint is that when you drag "Movies alias" to the sidebar it shows up as "Movies", and there's no Alias icon. Despite that, I think most people would expect "Rename" to rename only the link in the side bar, not the file itself. The UI is misleading.

And the there's the Dock, which does not dereference aliases. Oh, well.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: robg on Nov 08, '07 07:54:56PM

I guess my expectation is that an object in the sidebar is still in the Finder, and as such, it should follow the rules of the Finder. Aliases in the Finder are not dereferenced, yet that very same folder is dereferenced when placed in the sidebar.

Very weird.

-rob.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: osxpounder on Nov 08, '07 09:05:15PM

"The sidebar sure isn't very intuitive."

I agree.

My big beef with it till now had been that I can't drag an item from an external drive without it disappearing from the Sidebar later when the drive isn't mounted. I wish they would just act like aliases.

I feel the same way about Dock items. I think the "poof" animaton and the action of dragging things off the Dock is all wrong, and confuses more than it helps. If you want to get something off the Dock, seems to me the logical thing to do is drag it into the Trash. Sheesh.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: digitol on Nov 08, '07 11:31:16PM

In the "Industry" we call this sort of thing a "Feature" :)


LOL



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: tpb on Nov 08, '07 11:56:30PM

This is a valuable hint, but not very new indeed. About two years ago I ruined my home folder by renaming it via the sidebar from a remote machine. Next time I rebooted my dear old iBook, my account had disappeared! Great way to test your crisis handling capacity... Luckily all was saved by simply restoring the home folder's name.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: janaukes on Nov 09, '07 01:00:46AM

I never had any problems with sidebar or Dock, because I didn't modify the items. Maybe I intuitively consider the items as (a kind of) representation of the real object(Plato!)
For me, the aliasses are a independent link to the original object, which you can rename indeed.
As you see I am not a programmer. ;-)



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: MacMan03 on Nov 09, '07 07:07:01AM

Looked at the movie

-- This is CORRECT behaviour
-- While the alias is tied to the original, it's correct that is CAN have a different name to the original item

While this can sometinmes get confusing (which is why it's good to use the same name), there are occasons where it can be very beneficial to be able to use a different name for the alias as compared with the original item.

Aliases have always worked this way
-- It's not a bug, it's a feature.

But as mentioned above, while it's generally sensible to use the same or similar name for the alias as the original, this is not actually a requirement.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: robg on Nov 09, '07 03:16:57PM

You misunderstood the movie, I'm afraid. I'm in complete agreement with the fact that aliases can have different names than the original -- no debate there at all.

What has *never* been the case is that a change of an *alias' name* could affect the original! The entire point of aliases is that, while they point at the original object, they are, in fact, independent of it relative to where they're stored on disk and how they're named.

The movie clearly shows that renaming an alias -- in the sidebar, not in the Finder -- renames the original folder. That's a big no-no.

-rob.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: morespace54 on Nov 09, '07 07:17:59AM

Just to let you know that I had the same problem on Tiger. Bot the renaming issue as well as deleting issue (i.e. you had a remote folder on your sidebar, sometimes later you decide you don't really need that *alias* so you press cmd-delete and BOOM, your remote folder is gone... nowhere to be found...)

really, really annoying.

Be *extra* careful with folders on the sidebar!



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: robg on Nov 09, '07 03:21:43PM

Wow, now *that* I didn't know...extra scary.

-rob.



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A caution on network-based aliases and the sidebar
Authored by: mark hunte on Nov 09, '07 12:29:56PM

I just tested this, As far as I am concerned this is not Normal or Expected.
My test was not over a network but to a local Folder.

When I renamed the Sidebar item it renamed the Original. BUT the sidebar item still reflected the old name,
it did not change to the New name.

After Re-launching the Finder the Name of the sidebar item then changed to the new name.

Did the test again the new name change straight away.

I think both name change issues are bugs.




---
mh



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