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Like any Operating System, Mac OS X will help keep things looking organized by selectively hiding certain files on your computer. For the most part, you can go without needing to access these files directly. However, if you do need to access these files, say for troubleshooting, or if you just want to have a look around, you can easily toggle the visibility of hidden files on your Mac.
In this tutorial, we are going to examine two ways of revealing hidden files and hiding them again.
Quick Tip: Revealing Hidden Files in OS X
Revealing Hidden Files With Terminal:
You can use a Terminal command to reveal the hidden files in OS X by making a change to the default behavior of Finder.
defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
You can see from this command that we are making a change to the default behavior of Finder, to show all files, and setting it to true. Next we need to restart Finder, to do this type killall Finder and hit return.
If you have a look at your desktop, you can see that there are some new files that were previously hidden. By typing this Terminal command, you can now see all the hidden files on your Mac. To set them back to being hidden, you can use the same terminal command, but change TRUE, to FALSE. Restart finder by again by typing killall Finder, and you can see that the files have gone back to being hidden.
By typing this Terminal command, you can now see all the hidden files on your Mac.
Revealing Hidden Files With an App
Now if you don't feel comfortable using Terminal, or if you just like to have some kind of graphical user interface to work with, there are various Apps available that you can use to achieve this same effect of turning on and off the visibility of hidden files.
One such App is Invisiblix, a free Utility App that will toggle the visibility of hidden files across OS X. Clicking the icon that looks suspiciously like the Spotlight icon will toggle the visibility of hidden files globally across OS X. Clicking the icon again, which now has a slash through it indicating that you will disable showing of hidden files, will once again hide them.
You can also drag and drop individual files into the App interface and edit the settings for it's visibility as well as lock the file to prevent it from being deleted accidentally. Finder will now give you a warning asking you if you really want to delete the file because the file is locked.
A Word Of Caution:
The hidden files inside of OS X are hidden for a reason. You can do some serious damage pretty quickly if you don't know what you're doing when making changes to hidden files. A bit of common sense should be enough to keep you from killing you Mac; if you don't know what the file is, it's best not to change or delete it.
You can do some serious damage pretty quickly if you don't know what you're doing when making changes to hidden files.
If you need to see the hidden files on your Mac, whether for troubleshooting, hiding sensitive files, or just having a look around, OS X makes it easy to show them through a simple Terminal command or an App like Invisiblix.