Show Hidden Files in Mac OS Finder


Show/Hide Hidden Files the Long Way

The long way to show hidden Mac OS X files is as follows:
  1. Open Terminal found in Finder > Applications > Utilities
  2. In Terminal, paste the following: defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES
  3. Press return
  4. Hold the ‘Option/alt’ key, then right click on the Finder icon in the dock and click Relaunch.

This will show all hidden files. To hide them again, follow the same steps but replace the Terminal command with:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles NO
It’s not the longest set of instructions or the biggest command to commit to memory but if you’re doing this a lot, it’s worth spending a few minutes now to save yourself a lot more time in the future.

Show/Hide Hidden Files using Terminal Aliases

A Terminal alias is a name or shortcut for one or multiple commands. Using an easy to remember alias, we can turn the above four step process into just one.
An alias can be made temporarily (just for the use of one terminal session) or permanently. As we want this to be a shortcut used now and in the future, let’s make it permanent:
  1. Open Terminal found in Finder > Applications > Utilities
  2. In Terminal, paste the following: sudo nano ~/.bash_profile
  3. Enter your Mac’s administration password if required, then hit return
  4. At the bottom of the open .bash_profile file, paste the following: alias showFiles='defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES; killall Finder /System/Library/CoreServices/'
  5. Below that, paste the following: alias hideFiles='defaults write AppleShowAllFiles NO; killall Finder /System/Library/CoreServices/'
  6. Press ctrl + O and hit return to save the file
  7. Press ctrl + X to exit the file and return to the command line
  8. In Terminal, paste the following: source ~/.bash_profile to refresh your profile and make the aliases available
Adding aliases to .bash_profile via Terminal

Adding aliases to .bash_profile via Terminal

Now when you want to show hidden files, all you need type in Terminal is showFiles, then hideFiles when you want to hide them.

If you want to modify the behaviour or alias names, let’s take a closer look at the commands you just added:
alias showFiles='defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES; 
killall Finder /System/Library/CoreServices/'

alias tells Terminal we’re adding a new alias.
showFiles is the name of the alias. Change this to what you wish.

We then give the alias two commands. The first being:
defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES;

This is the command to show hidden files and is ended with a semi-colon ; so we can then use the second command:
killall Finder /System/Library/CoreServices/

This will relaunch the Finder (to replicate the step of holding the ‘Option/alt’ key then right clicking the Finder icon in the dock).