If you’ve newly transitioned from a Windows system to a Mac, you might be somewhat confused as to how you create an app shortcut on macOS. There is no reference to shortcuts anywhere and if you search for them in Spotlight or System Preferences, the Keyboard is mostly what comes up. Shortcuts, whether they’re for files or for apps, exist on macOS. They’re called Aliases and they’re quite useful. Here’s how to create one.
Navigate to the file or app that you want to create a shortcut for. Right-click it, and select the Make Alias option from the context menu. This will create a shortcut for the item in the same location. You can then move it wherever you want. Unlike Windows, there’s no context menu option for creating a shortcut on the desktop.
When you use the context menu, the shortcut is always created in the original directory.
Another way to create an alias or shortcut on macOS is to use the Control+Command+A keyboard shortcut. This works on Catalina and should apply on older versions as well however, if it doesn’t work on yours you can look up what the correct keyboard shortcut is for your version of macOS. To do this, open Finder, select an app and go to the File menu on the menu bar. Make Alias will be listed in the menu with its shortcut next to it.
To execute the shortcut, open Finder, select the item(s) you want to create a shortcut for, and tap the keyboard shortcut.
Drag & drop
If you prefer to use drag & drop to move files on macOS, you’ll be happy to know that you can also use drag & drop to create a file or app shortcut on macOS. Open Finder and select the items(s) you want to create a shortcut for. Hold down the Option+Command keys, and then drag & drop the item(s) to the folder you want to create the alias/shortcut in. This method is the only one where you can create a shortcut in your preferred location in one step. The other two methods listed above require that you move the shortcut after creating it.
Shortcuts, or aliases, retain the thumbnail or icon that the original file/app has however they also have a black arrow to indicate they are not the original file. Deleting an alias is generally harmless however it’s not a good idea to populate the Applications folder with aliases and move your apps elsewhere. On macOS, apps belong in the Applications folder.