I have a symlink on my Desktop that points to my Dropbox folder. Clicking on this link takes me through to Dropbox, which is located elsewhere. But if I try navigating to ~/Desktop/Dropbox using Emacs, it tells me that the symlink is the sole completion and will not go further.

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How can I get Emacs to let me to TAB through the symlink, so that I can start with ~/Desktop and then navigate to say:


  • What happens if you hit RET for that sole completion?
    – Drew
    May 16, 2020 at 14:53
  • Emacs opens the Symlink file itself.
    – Adam
    May 17, 2020 at 2:39
  • Not clear to me; maybe show an example? You say you have a symlink to a folder, but in your comment you speak of a symlink to a file.
    – Drew
    May 17, 2020 at 7:04
  • 1
    To me looks like it's a OSX finder alias and not a unix symlink. At least a while ago when I had a mac finder handled both equally but at system level they're not the same, aliases are seen like regular files. Try to create a symlink with ln -s
    – Muihlinn
    May 19, 2020 at 11:10
  • 1
    Please, @Muihlinn or OP: post the answer as an answer, to help others. Comments can be deleted at any time, and they are not searched.
    – Drew
    May 19, 2020 at 23:41

1 Answer 1


Looks like your symlink is a finder alias and not a symlink. OSX Finder handles both of them the same way, but at system level the finder alias is a plain file.

Substitute the finder alias for a proper unix symlink using ln -s command and it should work.

  • Thanks @Muihlinn. I don’t suppose there a supported method to complete through a Finder alias as well?
    – Adam
    May 20, 2020 at 17:49
  • I don't know, I packed up about 10.7.5 and then if something like that existed I wasn't aware of it . IIRC Finder aliases at early OSXs were part of Mac OS 9 compatibility using the Resource Fork for storing targets. Why they keep both kinds behaving diferently depending if you're using the Finder, the CLI or a system call was something acceptable at first, but after 10.4 a plain annoyance.
    – Muihlinn
    May 20, 2020 at 17:58

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