Roman Kropachek Photo
Written by:

How to see all files on mac

how to see all files on mac

Navigating through the files on your Mac can occasionally be a daunting task, especially if you are trying to locate hidden files or simply wish to organize your data. Knowing the steps to reveal all files on your Mac will enhance your experience and make file management more efficient. In this article, I will guide you through several methods that I have personally used to manage and view files on my Mac. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to macOS, these methods will assist you in uncovering every file on your system.


Common Scenarios:

Finding Your Files in a Cluttered Mac ‘s Disk Space”>

  • Spotlight is a powerful search feature in macOS that can help locate files, but it may not always show hidden files or system files.
  • Manually navigating through folders can be time-consuming and may not reveal all files.
  • Users may forget where they have saved specific files or aren’t aware that certain files exist on their Mac.

Accessing Hidden Files for Troubleshooting ‘s Tips”>

  • Access to hidden files can be essential for advanced troubleshooting or development work.
  • Temporary files, logs, and configuration files (often hidden) can provide insights into system issues.
  • Understanding how to view these files is crucial for rectifying various issues or customizing your user experience.

Organizing and Cleaning Up ‘s Files

  • Periodic maintenance and organization of files are necessary to ensure efficient workflow and optimal performance of your Mac.
  • Seeing all files can help identify and remove unnecessary or duplicate files that are consuming disk space.
  • Tools for file organization and management can be utilized to categorize and archive data effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide. How To See All Files On Mac:

Method 1: Using Finder ‘s View Options

  • Open Finder from the Dock or by clicking on a Finder window.
  • From the menu bar, select ‘View’ > ‘Show View Options’ or press Command + J.
  • Check the ‘Show Library Folder’ to reveal the user Library folder, which is hidden by default.

Note: This will only reveal the Library folder and not all hidden files.

Conclusion: Useful for quickly accessing the Library folder but not for viewing all files.

Method 2: Using Keyboard Shortcuts

  • While in Finder, navigate to the folder where you suspect hidden files to be.
  • Press Command + Shift + . (period) to toggle the visibility of hidden files.
  • The files that were hidden will become transparent, indicating that they are normally un-viewable.

Note: This is a temporary view option and will revert once you close the Finder window.

Conclusion: This is a quick and easy way to view hidden files without permanent changes.

Method 3: Using Terminal Commands

  • Open Terminal from the Utilities folder or by searching for it in Spotlight.
  • Type the command defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool true and press Enter.
  • Holding the ‘Option/Alt’ key, right-click on the Finder icon in the Dock and click ‘Relaunch’.

Note: To reverse this change, replace true with false in the command and relaunch Finder.

Conclusion: A more permanent solution for revealing hidden files, but be careful with Terminal commands.

Method 4: Using Third-Party Apps

  • Research and find a reputable file management app such as XtraFinder or MacPaw Hider.
  • Download and install the application following the provider’s instructions.
  • Use the app’s interface to toggle the visibility of hidden files or manage files efficiently.

Note: Ensure the app is compatible with your version of macOS and is from a trusted developer.

Conclusion: Third-party apps may offer additional features and a more user-friendly approach to file management.

Method 5: Using Mac’s Search Function

  • Open a Finder window and use the search bar at the top right corner.
  • Type a period ‘.’ followed by the file extension (e.g., ‘.pdf’) to find all files of that type.
  • To search for hidden files, try common prefixes such as ‘.’ (e.g., ‘.htaccess’).

Note: This will not show system files by default, but you can include system files in your search criteria.

Conclusion: Finder’s search is powerful for finding files by type, but won’t necessarily show every file.

Method 6: Accessing the Mac’s Library Folder

  • Open Finder and click on the ‘Go’ menu.
  • Press the Option key, and you will see the ‘Library’ option appear.
  • Select ‘Library’ to access the hidden Library folder within your user directory.

Note: Be cautious when modifying files within the Library, as they can affect application behaviors and settings.

Conclusion: Directly accessing the Library is useful for advanced users needing to alter application support files or preferences.


Precautions and Tips:

Maximize Your Finder Experience ‘s Tips

  • Regularly use the Command + Shift + . shortcut to toggle between showing and hiding files.
  • Customize the toolbar in Finder windows by right-clicking and choosing ‘Customize Toolbar’.
  • Consider setting up Smart Folders to automatically organize files by certain criteria such as date or file type.

Maintaining a Clean Workspace ‘s Recommendations

  • Delete files you no longer need and empty the Trash regularly to free up space.
  • Use applications like OmniDiskSweeper or DaisyDisk to analyze and manage disk space usage.
  • Consider using Time Machine to regularly back up your files, in case you need to recover deleted or modified files.

Exploring Further

For those interested in delving deeper into file management on Mac, understanding the file structure of macOS and how to utilize advanced searching techniques can be very beneficial. macOS uses a hierarchical file system structure that is rooted in UNIX, and understanding this can help when it comes to navigating through directories in either Finder or using the command line. Websites such as the official Apple Support site and Apple Developer portal provide in-depth documentation and tutorials on macOS.

Additionally, becoming proficient with Spotlight and leveraging its capabilities beyond the basics can enhance the way you search and organize files on your Mac. High-authority resources like Macworld and MacRumors How-To offer articles and guides on exploiting the full potential of Spotlight and other macOS features.


In conclusion, understanding how to see all files on a Mac is indispensable for managing your system’s data. Whether through Finder’s preferences, using keyboard shortcuts, leveraging Terminal commands or third-party apps, Mac offers a variety of tools to help you access and organize your files. Remember, while uncovering hidden files can be helpful, always proceed with caution when altering system or application files. Combining these methods with best practices for file storage and management will ensure that your macOS experience is both smooth and productive.


To quickly display all files in a folder, open the folder in Finder, press Command + J, and select ‘Show all filename extensions’ and ‘Show Library Folder’ if needed.

Press Command + Shift + . (period key) in Finder to toggle the visibility of hidden files and folders in your Mac’s file system.

Yes, open Terminal and type ‘defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES’ followed by ‘killall Finder’ to show all files, including hidden ones.

Absolutely, you can use a third-party file management application like File Viewer to navigate and view system files on a Mac.

To always show files on your Mac, go to Finder > Preferences, navigate to the ‘Advanced’ tab, and check the option ‘Show all filename extensions’.

To find a specific file type, use Spotlight by pressing Command + Space and typing the file extension, or use Finder search with the ‘kind:’ filter.

With Finder active, go to ‘View’ menu and select ‘Show Path Bar’, or press Option + Command + P, to display the full path at the bottom of the Finder window.

Consider the app Alfred, which enhances file visibility and organization through advanced search and custom workflows on your Mac.

In Finder, click on the ‘View’ button at the top and choose ‘List’, ‘Columns’, or ‘Gallery’ to change how the file details are displayed.

Yes, in Finder, click on the ‘View’ menu and select ‘As List’, then click on the ‘Date Modified’ column header to sort files by the date they were last changed.