Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Apple > Operating Systems

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Managing Hidden Items

Lion is a fully UNIX compliant operating system, and as such requires a number of files that the average user will never touch. The root level of the Mac’s system volume is littered with resources that UNIX processes require and UNIX administrators expect. Apple made the wise choice of configuring the Finder to hide these items from the average user. On a daily basis, the average user—and even most administrative users—does not need to access any of these items from the graphical interface. Realistically, the only people who even care about these normally hidden resources are going to be using Terminal to do their work anyway. In other words, keeping these system items hidden in the Finder not only provides a tidier work environment but also prevents average users from poking around in places they don’t need to go.

As a hybrid of UNIX and Mac OS technologies, Lion uses two methods to hide files and folders. The first is a UNIX tradition; simply using a period at the beginning of the item’s name will hide the item in both the Finder and while using the default options to list items with ls in Terminal. The second method is a Mac OS tradition; enable an item’s hidden file flag. This method, however, will only hide the item in the Finder.

Opening Hidden Items in the Finder

Should you want or need to open normally hidden items in the Finder, there are two methods. The first involves use of the Finder’s Go menu to open any folder; the second involves using the open command from Terminal to open any file or folder.

Using the Go Menu

To reveal hidden folders in the Finder:

  1. From the Finder, choose Go > Go to Folder from the menu bar, or you can use the Command-Shift-G keyboard shortcut.

    This will reveal a dialog allowing you to enter an absolute path to any folder on the Mac. A good starting place is a user’s Library folder, ~/Library; as covered previously, many system resources are found in this folder.

  2. Click the Go button once you have entered the path.

The Finder will reveal the hidden folder in a window. Note the dimmed folder icon representing the normally hidden folder. To save time for when you return to the Go dialog, the previous path you entered will be there.


Using the open Command

The open command is a rather unique command that spans Terminal’s command line and the graphical interface. The open command can be used to open files, folders, and URLs from Terminal to an application in the graphical interface. Folders are opened in a Finder window, the default web browser opens URLs, and files are opened by the default application for the specified file type. Again, because Terminal doesn’t respect the hidden file flag, you can use the open command to open any hidden item as well.

The following example will use the open command to open the user’s current working folder from Terminal to a Finder window. The period used in the command is command-line shorthand for “this folder,” thus this example literally translates to “open this folder.”

MyMac:~ michelle$ open .

The next example will open the /private folder, which is normally hidden, in a Finder window:

MyMac:~ michelle$ open /private

This next example will open a file on Michelle’s desktop called Proof.pdf with the default PDF reader, most likely the Preview application:

MyMac:~ michelle$ open Desktop/Proof.pdf

This final example will open Apple’s main website in the default web browser, most likely the Safari application:

MyMac:~ michelle$ open

Revealing Hidden Items via Terminal

From Terminal’s command line, you can easily override both types of hidden items. Again, by default, the ls command ignores the hidden file flag used by the Finder; thus it will simply show these items in the list. However, in its default mode the ls command doesn’t show items whose names begin with a period. You can modify this behavior by using the –a option to list all items.

In the following Terminal example, Michelle will use the ls command with the -a option to reveal all items at the root of a system volume:

MyMac:~ michelle$ ls -a /
total 36669
.                                                                       Users
..                                                                      Volumes
.DS_Store                                                               bin
.Spotlight-V100                                                         cores
.Trashes                                                                dev                                        etc
.file                                                                   home
.fseventsd                                                              mach_kernel
.hotfiles.btree                                                         net
.vol                                                                    private
Applications                                                            sbin
Developer                                                               tmp
Library                                                                 usr
Network                                                                 var

Of the nearly 30 items at the root of the system volume shown in this example, only 5 are shown in the Finder: Applications, Developer, Library, System, and Users. All of these additional items are created and used by the operating system, so they should generally be left alone. Again, for this reason they are hidden to most users by the Finder.

Hiding or “Unhiding” Items

The easiest way to hide an item is to simply name it with a period at the beginning of the filename. However, to prevent novice users from accidentally hiding their items, the Finder will not let you save a file with a period at the beginning of its name. Therefore, you must use Terminal. Simply use the mv command to rename the item, as covered in Appendix B, “Command-Line Essentials.”

If you need to hide an item from the Finder, but you can’t change its name to start with a period, then you can enable the hidden file flag. This is also only possible from Terminal. You can use the chflags command with the hidden option to hide any item from the Finder. Conversely, you can use the chflags command with the nohidden option to permanently reveal an item in the Finder. Finally, you can use the -O option, along with the long list option -l, to show any file system flags, verifying which items have the hidden file flag enabled.

In the following example, Michelle uses the chflags command to permanently reveal her home Library folder. She also uses the ls command before and after to show the file flags, verifying that the folder is no longer hidden after the change. In this example, the output of the ls command has been truncated to show only the results of the ~/Library folder.

MyMac:~ michelle$ ls -lO
total 0
drwx------@ 48 michelle staff hidden 1632 Aug 3 18:35 Library
MyMac:~ michelle$ chflags nohidden Library/
MyMac:~ michelle$ ls -lO
total 0
drwx------+ 48 michelle staff - 1632 Aug 3 18:35 Library
  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020