How to Show Hidden Files on Mac OS X

Like nearly every operating system, Mac OS X hides certain files and folders from the user by default. These files, which often contain system configuration information, are invisible to the user but can be revealed with a Terminal command. The command to show hidden files on Mac OS X is:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE; killall Finder

While this works really well, unless you plan to frequently access hidden files, showing them will merely clutter up your desktop and folders. If you need to show hidden files only occasionally, there’s an easier way.

Mac OS X Hidden FilesFirst, launch the application with which you’d like to open a hidden file. Next, using the application’s “Open File” function, navigate to the directory where your hidden files are stored. Finally, press Command – Shift – [period] and any hidden files will become visible only in the Open File window.

Show Hidden Files on Mac OS X

If you’re done browsing your hidden files, press Command – Shift – [period] again to return the files to their hidden state. This shortcut lets you quickly and easily access and view hidden files without cluttering up your Finder or Desktop.

Personally, I can’t stand to see .DS_Store files all over the place when I’m browsing my Mac, so I use this method most of the time. Occasionally I need to do something that requires changing a lot of hidden files and that’s when I use the command at the beginning of the tip.

What If You’ve Already Run the Command to Show Hidden Files on Mac OS X?

If you’ve run the Terminal command and now you no longer want to see hidden files, you can hide them again by entering the following command:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE; killall Finder

Once you’ve done that, you shouldn’t see any more hidden files on your Mac and you can return to business as usual.

These are my methods for dealing with hidden files, but if you know of any other ways to show hidden files on Mac OSX, let me know in the comments. I’d be more than happy to update the post with more options.

Want news and tips from TekRevue delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up for the TekRevue Weekly Digest using the box below. Get tips, reviews, news, and giveaways reserved exclusively for subscribers.

Sign Up for the TekRevue Weekly Digest

  • Raul Henriquez
  • lolwiener

    Maybe you should mention that work depending on Finder, say a mounted filesystem, will be disconnected and might lead to loss of work. The average user has no clue.

    • http://www.tekrevue.com/ TekRevue

      I use this tip all the time with network volumes and it works the same as local volumes. Nothing is disconnected. What systems are you using? Mac to Mac? Mac to Windows? Linux?

  • RaunaqSingh

    perfect. thanks.

  • john smith

    excellent! thanks.

  • Madhuri Vaidya


  • http://seomov.com/ SEO Singapore

    This temporary shortcut is good, however can anyone tell me what is this key [period] ?

    • http://www.tekrevue.com/ TekRevue

      That means the period key “.” I wrote it as [period] so that people wouldn’t miss the tiny dot when reading the instructions.

      • http://seomov.com/ SEO Singapore

        Thanks for the info :)

  • VictoriaCole

    Jim, the method provided by you to show hidden files mac os x is one of the simple and quick way. There are many other application I have seen that works even faster.

  • AshleyWest

    I guess this will definitely work for you if you have little technical knowledge,

    Open terminal = spotlight search terminal

    paste in these lines

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

    killall Finder

    To hide hidden files just change TRUE = FALSE

    If it does not work then you should go to any online shop to buy show hidden files mac

  • Pirate48

    Check out Funter for such purposes, its also freeware.

  • Patrick Burton

    Thanks for the tip. I do have a problem with it. I can’t remove them. I tried the False version but the hidden files are still there. Any idea anyone.

  • Jonathan Cross

    If you want to simply click a button in the Finder window, you can use the instructions here: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/29135878/what-is-the-quickest-way-to-toggle-hide-show-hidden-files-on-a-mac-os-x-yosemite/29141617

    • http://www.tekrevue.com/ TekRevue

      Thanks for pointing this out!

  • Adam Levine

    Hi, I have a problem. If you could post a link or suggest a solution, that would be great!

    Problem: I hid my files because it was getting all cluttered up, after I deleted the useless ones, my desktop was much more clearer. However, I cannot drag any files onto the desktop without it bouncing back. I have tried the instructions where you relaunch the Finder but I am still having trouble. It would help if you could lend a hand. Thanks!

  • shohel khatri

    Ctrl+Shift+. Realllllllly Helped! Cheers!

  • SuperFresh

    Here’s a direct download link to a simple app I made that accomplishes the same thing. Thank you for your support. Check out it, works great!