I work with hidden files all the time, but I like an uncluttered desktop. It would be nice to make files like .DS_Store, and .localized invisible just on the Desktop.

Please note I am already aware of this trusty old terminal standby:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder

Setting that flag to FALSE applies to everything in the system. My goal is to make an exception for the Desktop. Any suggestions?

  • Do you save files on your desktop, or do you always keep it uncluttered?
    – Daniel
    Oct 6, 2011 at 21:54
  • It's generally uncluttered (no files). Oct 6, 2011 at 22:24

6 Answers 6


Although i'm unsure how to fulfill your exact request, I use this tiny widget which gives 1 button access to hide/show hidden files.

chflags hidden ~/Desktop/hideme

This makes the file/folder invisible from the Finder and save/open panels. You can use {command}{shift}. to toggle visibility during save/open.

  • Welcome to Ask Different! Can you explain what this does? Please give more details than an one-line Terminal command. Please take a look at the FAQs for more info. Thanks. Oct 7, 2011 at 2:42
  • I just tested this. If you enable Finder's "show all files" setting and run chflags hidden .DS_Store, nothing happens.
    – Graham
    Oct 7, 2011 at 8:57
  • I confirm @Graham 's observation, it doesn't work on Mountain Lion.
    – Kheldar
    Nov 15, 2012 at 11:37

My approach to this was to set Finder to generally show invisible files, and then explicitly set the invisible flag on files/folders on the Desktop which match certain criteria (.*, Icon, etc).

But this approach failed, as Finder then consequently not only shows files hidden because they start with a dot, but also those which have the invisible flag in their filesystem entry.

Nevertheless I post this idea to you, maybe it leads you to a solution.

# Set Finder to show all hidden files
# Only needs to be executed one time.
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles ON

# Then explicitly flag certain files on the Desktop as invisible
# Run this at every login or at certain intervals (cron job)
/usr/bin/SetFile -a V ~/Desktop/.* ~/Desktop/Icon ~/Desktop/OtherPatternForHiding

This does not answer your very specific question but provides an alternative solution. Assuming you want to have easy and quick access to the hidden files and not have them open all the time, which is not recommended anyway.

Here is a little script that Automates the process down to a single click to Show or Hide. It eliminates:

1-possible problems with hidden files showing all the time

2-opening terminal and typing the show hidden files, command each time.

3-Extremly users friendly.

Install this as application onto your dock for easy and fast access.

-- AppleScript to toggle hidden "." files
-- Submitted by Baltwo on Apple Support Community

    do shell script "defaults read com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles"
on error
    do shell script "defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles 0"
end try

if (do shell script "defaults read com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles") is equal to "0" then
    do shell script "defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles 1"
    do shell script "defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles 0"
end if

do shell script "killall Finder"

I would suggest trying out TotalFinder. Among many other features, it gives you a shortcut to show/hide invisible files in the Finder, but it does not show invisible files on the Desktop.

It's $18, but you also get tabbed and dual-pane Finder windows, and a Visor-like Finder window that you can pop up from any app.

  • Thanks for the suggestion. But, if an application can do that, isn't there likely a command line interface to exploit? Oct 7, 2011 at 5:26
  • TotalFinder's option to show hidden files is independent of AppleShowAllFiles, so it doesn't necessarily indicate the same effect could be done via command line — but I certainly hope it can be.
    – joelseph
    Oct 7, 2011 at 6:18

This is admittedly a kludge, but replacing the icons for .localized and .DS_Store with a transparent .icns file like this one allows you to drag them into a screen location that's marginally less obnoxious, from a clutter perspective. It's still not as good as being able to assert the equivalent of ShowAllFilesExceptHere

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