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After upgrading to Big Sur today (from macOS 10.14 Mojave) on my 2018 MacBook Air 13", I found a number of unwelcome new folders had appeared in my Documents folder (when viewed with Finder).

These folders are:

  • GarageBand
  • Keynote
  • Numbers
  • Pages
  • Preview
  • QuickTime Player
  • TextEdit

Each one, except Preview and TextEdit, contains a single Alias file called "iChats". The Preview and TextEdit folders are empty. Needless to say, I cannot open the iChats files.

I do not want these folders, but I can't move them to somewhere else, unlike my own genuine folders: a circle with a slash through it appears if I try.

So I thought I would look using Terminal, but cd Documents and then ls -a shows only my own files and directories. These unwanted interlopers are nowhere to be seen.

Edit: Some more information:

Following the advice of Joy Jin, I dragged each folder onto a Terminal window, to see what was revealed. The folders appear in Terminal as follows (every path begins with /Users/davidhoadley/Library/Containers/ - I have edited that text out of each item below:

  • ... com.apple.garageband10/Data/Documents
  • ... com.apple.iWork.Keynote/Data/Documents
  • ... com.apple.iWork.Numbers/Data/Documents
  • ... com.apple.iWork.Pages/Data/Documents
  • ... com.apple.Preview/Data/Documents
  • ... com.apple.QuickTimePlayerX/Data/Documents

In answer to user3439894, yes, I can right-click and Move to Trash. But what then appears in the trash is the com.apple.(whatever)/Data/ folder, with several subfolders (i.e. not simply the folder from Documents that I described above). I do not know what these folders do, and I am afraid that if I delete them or send them to the trash, I will somehow adversely affect the running of the relevant applications.

So the folders appear to be some kind of link or alias. But they are not a unix-style hard link or a symbolic link, because they don't appear in the directory as seen from Terminal using the ls -a command.

So my question now becomes: is it safe to send them to the trash? And if anyone has any clues as to what the mechanism is that shows me these links/aliases/whatever they are, I would be most interested.

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  • Welcome to Ask Different. Just guessing, but can you check in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud Drive > Options... if "Desktop & Documents Folders" is checked?
    – jaume
    Nov 25 '20 at 11:24
  • Got them as well, with D&D unchecked. The folders point to the iCloud folders for these applications, maybe people didn't find these folders in ~/Library/Containers easily. But definitively a nuisance.
    – nohillside
    Nov 25 '20 at 11:28
  • @jaume iCloud Drive is turned off completely. So I don't even see Options in System Preferences > Apple ID Nov 25 '20 at 11:50
  • Have you tried deleting them, e.g. right-click in Finder and select Move to Trash, or from Terminal, rm -rf <folder name> or sudo rm -rf <folder name>? If those didn't work have you tried deleting them from macOS Recovery using Terminal from the Utilities menu? E.g. cd '/Volumes/Macintosh HD - Data/Users/<your_short_name>/Documents' and then rm -rf <folder name> Nov 25 '20 at 14:04
  • @user3439894 I cannot try rm -rf or sudo rm -rf, because in Terminal, the directories do not appear. There is nothing to delete. I will have a look at the macOS Recovery approach. (I am sorry that you didn't like the verse. It just seemed relevant...) Nov 25 '20 at 20:53
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Finder now shows documents belonging to some sandboxed applications.

No other application shows these extra folders. In particular Terminal commands and Finder replacements, like Path Finder and ForkLift, do not show the folders.

The folders are only present in Finder when an application has put data in the ~/Library/Containers/app/Data/Documents folder.

The applications I see in ~/Documents all have content in iCloud Drive though the files in iCloud Drive are not the same as in Finder.

In my case, I see the pseudo-folders for 3rd party applications like BBEdit, iThoughtsX.

This behaviour seems to be designed to mimic the behaviour of the Files application in iOS.

There is no known way to turn off this behaviour. But I would be glad to shown wrong on this.

It is not a good idea to just delete the folders or the files in them. Deleting the files is likely to cause problems when using the applications because the content has been created by the application.

My solution is to create a new folder ~/MyDocuments and put all my documents in there. That leaves ~/Documents for Apple to manipulate.

If you dislike this behaviour, submit feedback to Apple.

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    In the light of this answer, I have tried a different compromise. I have left the folders in Documents, but hidden them from the finder. I did this using Terminal, with chflags hidden and dragged each folder from Finder into the Terminal window. If I ever want to see them again, I can always use ⌘-shift-. Dec 6 '20 at 5:07
  • @DavidHoadley This should definitely be the accepted answer. What a nonsensical thing to do by Apple, with the introduction of these "non-folder" folders.
    – Kolja
    Jul 2 at 15:35
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All of those folders could easily come from iCloud documents sync. You are correct to be cautious deleting them. I would be sure iCloud is signed out (or at least you don’t enable document sync) before trying to delete these.

We can’t really look at your iCloud settings, so a chat or call with Apple support would be prudent if you don’t see right away what happened to be sure you do not delete iCloud data.

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  • Thought the apps in question all have files in iCloud Drive, the files are different.
    – Gilby
    Dec 1 '20 at 22:31

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