Quick question, when I type ls -l in my terminal from "Desktop" folder the following two files pop up. They are not hidden since I don't use the -a flag and they cannot be seen on the physical desktop either.

Loodz# Desktop$ ls -l
total 264
-rw-r--r--@ 1 ludvigsmacbook  staff    162 25 Maj  2020 ~$1303 svar tenta.docx
-rw-r--r--@ 1 ludvigsmacbook  staff    162 19 Okt  2019 ~$en kursrapport.docx

I'm 100% sure that I did not name these ms word files starting with ~$ but the rest of the files are known to me. I managed to open the bottom file using open \~\$en\ kursrapport.docx, but it could not be opened by word.

It would be interesting to get an understanding of this "special" file since I use the terminal daily and enjoy learning, in addition to being annoyed by the strange files.

  • 1
    The files probably have the hidden flag, which hides them in the GUI but not the command line. Try ls -lO, which will show file flags (along with the usual long listing). Feb 18 at 0:02
  • Yes. You're completely right, it was marked as hidden! Thank you.
    – Beethoven
    Feb 18 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


They are leftover temporary MS Word files used for saving and recovery while working on a document. MS Word should delete them automatically when it closes. There are certain situations when they do not get deleted such as if MS word does not shut down properly.

They are actually a form of hidden file. You can view them in the finder by pressing (command + shift + period) keys, this will cause the hidden files and folders on your Mac to appear partially transparent. Once visible you can view or delete the files in question if you desire. As long as you do not have the document open they are safe to delete. You can hide the files again using the same keyboard shortcut.


Excel, Word and other Microsoft Office programs do create "invisible" files. The purpose of the file is to mark the file as "being" used/opened. This temporary file holds the logon name of person who opens the file. This temporary file is called the "owner file."

When you try to open a file that is available on a network and that is already opened by someone else, this file supplies the for the following error message: This file is already opened by . Would you like to make a copy of this file for your use?

Also it seems that these files are not being properly cleaned and Microsoft Office is littering the file system. I have 3 such files on my Desktop. The original files are long time gone.

  • The files are not "invisible"
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 17 at 22:47
  • 1
    The question also says that "they cannot be seen on the physical desktop either." No need to be picky.
    – Gintaras
    Feb 18 at 7:36

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