I frequently use and edit config files inside /etc on OS X Lion. I would like to be able to access this dir in Finder easily, but don't want to unhide hidden files system-wide using defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles.

Anyone know how?

  • What files do you edit here as Apple has tended to move config elsewhere so only old Unix files are there - if you do this often aren't you using the terminal a lot.
    – mmmmmm
    Jun 21 '12 at 12:25
  • Hi Mark. It's usually to edit apache config files when setting up vhosts, ssl certs etc. It's a lot of cut and paste work which I find far easier to do in GUI text editors than terminal. Often I want to 'save to' something in /etc/apache2 from within an application too. Jun 21 '12 at 13:43

Enable ShowAllFiles one more time, long enough to drag /etc onto your Finder sidebar. From then on, /etc will be available in Finder and in Open and Save As dialogs, regardless of ShowAllFiles.


On my system running Lion (10.7.4), the command sudo chflags -h nohidden /etc revealed the /etc folder at the top level of my hard drive.

The -h flag to chflags makes it act on a symbolic link rather than on the linked file.

The man page for chflags states "Unless the -H or -L options are given, chflags on a symbolic link always succeeds and has no effect." The behavior I observe when I run it is not consistent with this description: I very much do see an effect when I run chflags on this particular symlink.

If that solution doesn't work for you, or if you don't want to make /etc visible to all users on your system but you do want to easily navigate there in the Finder and in Open, Save, etc. dialog boxes, you could run a command like ln -s /etc ~/etc. That would create a (visible) symbolic link to the /etc directory in your home directory. When you double click it, it would open the /etc directory (actually the /Private/etc directory because /etc is a symlink thereto in OS X).

  • That symlink to /etc idea is excellent! Such a good idea I didn't need to try your first solution. thanks! Jun 27 '12 at 21:32
  • I can confirm that the sudo chflags -h nohidden /etc command still works in Yosemite - thanks Sep 12 '15 at 18:36

I would like to be able to access this dir in Finder easily …

from within apps …

In Finder or any Open file… window, you can type:

  • ⇧ shift⌘ commandG and type any directory you want to go to in that window, e.g. /etc, with auto-completion.
  • ⇧ shift⌘ command. 1 to toggle hide/unhide of any dotfiles or other hidden files, e.g. .zshrc, /etc. Then when you're done toggle it back—for Open file… dialogues it will reset after the window is closed.     1 Works with macOS Sierra and later.

Although its not exactly what you want, you could make an Application with Automator.

To do so:

  • Open Automator.
  • Select Work Flow.
  • Select Run Shell Script and type open /etc.
  • Hit Save and choose Application as the format.

You will, then, be able to open the etc folder by double clicking the Application you've just created.

  • Thanks, that's an idea, but I often want to be able to save to or open from /etc/* from within apps (Apache configs and SSL certs etc) Jun 21 '12 at 13:44

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