Apple Pro Training Series: OS X Support Essentials 10.10: Supporting and Troubleshooting OS X Yosemite: Hidden Items
Reference 13.1 Hidden Items
OS X is a fully UNIX-compliant operating system, and as such includes a number of files that the average user never touches. The root level of the Mac system volume contains many 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 the command-line interface via 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 shouldn’t go.
As a hybrid of previous UNIX and Mac OS technologies, OS X 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 hides the item both in the Finder and while using the default options to list items in Terminal. The second method is a Mac OS tradition: enabling an item’s hidden file flag. This method, however, only hides the item in the Finder.
Navigating Hidden Folders in the Finder
Should you want or need to open normally hidden items in the Finder, you have a choice of several methods. The first two provide access to the most commonly accessed hidden folder, the user’s Library folder. The last method involves using the Go menu in the Finder to open any folder, including hidden folders.
User’s Hidden Library Folder
As detailed later in Lesson 14 “System Resources”, the user’s Library folder is full of important resources, but it is hidden in the Finder. Fortunately, the Go menu provides a quick shortcut to this often-visited location. Simply hold down the Option key while clicking the Go menu to reveal the Library menu item.
If you frequently access the user’s Library folder, you may want to make it permanently visible. OS X Yosemite (and Mavericks) provides the ability to always show the user’s Library folder. Start by making sure the user’s home folder appears in the Finder sidebar. You can enable that behavior in the Sidebar settings of the Finder preferences, accessed by choosing Finder > Preferences or pressing Command-Comma. After you have selected the user’s home folder in the Finder sidebar, choose View > Show View Options, or press Command-J. From the View Options window, you can select the checkbox to permanently show the user’s Library folder.
Go to Folder
To reveal any hidden folder in the Finder, choose Go > Go to Folder, or press Command-Shift-G. This opens a dialog that allows you to enter an absolute path to any folder on the Mac. A good starting place is the /private folder, as this folder contains many common UNIX system resources.
Click the Go button after you have entered a path. The Finder reveals the hidden folder in a window. Note the dimmed folder icon representing the normally hidden folder. To save time when you return to the Go dialog, the last path you entered appears there.