Viewing hidden files in OSX Finder

To view hidden files in Finder go to the Spotlight and enter Terminal. The Terminal app should be the first choice.

Start Terminal and at the command prompt enter:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -boolean true
killall Finder

Now when you return to Finder the lighter grey file names are files that are normally hidden and are now visible. Generally, it is not prudent to delete these files unless you have investigated the implications of deleting these files.

The difficulty now is that thereafter the hidden files will show in the Finder. To make the files hidden to the finder again, enter the following at the command prompt in Terminal:

defaults delete com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles
killall Finder

While this is a bit techie, I do have need of this from time to time. Mostly, in user mode, we don’t want to be bothered with seeing these files.

However, sometimes I am communicating with users who live in the Microsoft Windows Operating System world and they are confused when they see hidden files in shared folders. This is especially true of some of the shared cloud folders for collaborations. It those cases, I can sometimes simple state that the files preceded by a ‘dot’ are to be left alone.

Sometimes, I must go further to satisfy their curiosity, or to convince them to leave those files alone, and then I explain that the prepending ‘dot’ hides the files in the BSD, UNIX, and LINIX operating systems. Generally, I don’t have to go farther than that, but occasionally, it helps to point out specific examples and to name a file that they are seeing in there ‘explorer’ that is/are to be left alone.

Perhaps the quickest way for me to see the hidden files to point out an existing example file they are seeing, is to enter the Terminal app and list the folder in question using the command

[Machine_Name]:[Path_to_Folder] [User_Name]$ ls -al

Where I have navigated to the folder [Path_to_Folder] in question.

I have found that when we are looking at the screen of my Mac together, the Windows user can be severely intimidated by the command line. They seem to simply stop processing anything that is said when the terminal is open. Not their fault! They might have never seen the power and majesty of the way computers really work (and they probably never saw the first Tron movie either).

Therefore, the above method of revealing the hidden files in the Mac OSX Finder has, in my experience, been a ‘less jarring’ experience for them.
Though you might have to envok a little ‘wizard of OZ “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” while you run the command to reveal the hidden files. (Hint: you can have a stickie that has the command at the ready to paste in at the command line)

Do you have a favorite Apple Mac OS X terminal command?

Is technology building a better professor?

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