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Jeroen W. Pluimers on .NET, C#, Delphi, databases, and personal interests

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OS X Finder: viewing hidden paths

Posted by jpluimers on 2015/03/27

One of the most frustrating things on a Mac is that the OS X Finder does not allow you to browse all paths.

Unlike Windows the Windows Explorer, where it is fairly easy to switch a preference for enabling/disabling showing the hidden files and folders, there is no option in the Preferences. There is a command-line trick (see below) to enable/disable showing hidden files and folders.

Luckily, both the Windows Explorer and the Mac OS X Finder allow you to specify the full folder path to browse, where you can enter a path that otherwise would (partially) be invisible.

  • Windows Explorer: just enter a full path in the address bar.
  • Mac OS X Finder: press Shift-Command-G (or Menu -> Go -> Go to Folder...), then enter the full path.

An alternative for Mac OS X is the payed (but great tool) Path Finder which is one of the best Finder replacements I know.

Command-line trick to enable/disable Mac OS X Finder hidden folder behaviour

There is an option on the command-line, which is very much case sensitive (Mac OS X is *nix based):

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

After this you need to restart the finder by logging off, rebooting, or just killing the finder with this command below which is also case sensitive (for instance the upper case initial in Finder):

killall Finder

To undo, replace TRUE with FALSE.

If that key does not exist, it defaults to FALSE. You can verify the state with this statement:

defaults read AppleShowAllFiles


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