I always have hidden files set to 'visible' in Finder, because I'm a developer and I work with a lot of dotfiles.

But even with this setting, Finder won't let me rename a file beginning with a dot. It also won't let me modify these files by pasting over them etc; it gives an error like "The item “.gitignore” can’t be replaced because it’s invisible." Well, it's not invisible, I can see it, and I want to replace it, and it's mine.

I know how to use mv. I am asking about doing this with Finder.

  • 1
    What step specifically do you perform to make invisible files exposed by Finder? What version of Finder / OS X are you running? The error I receive is "You can’t use a name that begins with a dot “.”, because these names are reserved for the system. Please choose another name."
    – bmike
    Aug 21, 2015 at 15:56

5 Answers 5


On macOS 10.15 Catalina through 12 Monterey, you now get a warning when you create or rename an "invisible" folder or file, but you are not longer blocked from renaming them.

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On El Capitan (beta build 15A263e), I can not rename dot files and get this message:

You can’t use a name that begins with a dot “.”, because these names are reserved for the system. Please choose another name.

I use the third party tool Transmit to make changes to invisible files and folders. I wish I knew a way to modify Finder to do what you ask, but someone trickier than I will need to step up with instructions if they are known.

Some time between 10.8 and 10.11 this was prohibited and some time between then and 12 it's allowed again.


You can solve this by doing one of the following to show hidden files (from https://ianlunn.co.uk/articles/quickly-showhide-hidden-files-mac-os-x-mavericks/):

  • Press Cmd-Shift-. in Finder to toggle showing hidden files
  • Run defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES and restart Finder

Once you have done this, the system will only warn you when creating dot files.


I do not know what version of OS X you're using however I have no problem renaming dotfiles in Finder under OS X 10.8.5. That said, If your using a version of OS X that will not allow you to rename dotfiles in Finder and you do not want to use Terminal and the mv command, then a GUI option you can consider using is muCommander.


You could make an Automator service with a hotkey that pops up and asks for a new name


I did the work for you.

Add it to ~/Library/Services and define a hotkey in System Preferences.

  • Could you expand on this? Perhaps show an example of how you would build such an Automator service?
    – Ian C.
    Aug 21, 2015 at 21:39

The answer may be different per scenario but the first thing you must do is make hidden files visible with CmdShift+.

Then you try to rename as a "dot" file.

(ADDITIONAL)based on comments: here are more details.

I did not add MacOS version to my answer because the question was from 2015 and I tested across Catalina, Big Sur, and now Monterey as I migrated from an old MBP to a 2021 MPBM.

I also learned that a very reliable solution is to use terminal to change the file name.

mv (option) file1.ext .file1

file1.ext is the original file's name, and .file1 being the new name.

  • 2
    It seems the OP already has done this ("I always have hidden files set to 'visible' in Finder") and Finder seems to prevent the renaming part.
    – nohillside
    Nov 7, 2021 at 15:00
  • Please edit this to show how you rename a file from say .yes to .nope and which version of macOS / Finder this worked for you. In my testing finder was not amenable to this task.
    – bmike
    Nov 7, 2021 at 15:26
  • 1
    Right on! I've edited my answer to collect which OS allowed it, which prohibited it and now we can use "hidden files again" - this seemed like a harsh and arbitrary restriction IMO @nohillside
    – bmike
    Nov 7, 2021 at 15:45
  • 1
    @bmike It seems to work since at least 2.5 years apple.stackexchange.com/a/363374/9058
    – nohillside
    Nov 7, 2021 at 16:01
  • 1
    I've tested back to Catalina @nohillside - may not have Mojave at home anymore that boots..
    – bmike
    Nov 7, 2021 at 22:48

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