Using commands within the terminal how can I check to see if a specific file is visible or hidden for a user?


There are two ways to hide files from OS X Finder (unless it's set up to show hidden files, or the user wants to see these files in a file dialog):

  • Rename so the name starts with a period (.), e.g. .bash_profile. This is common with software with Unix roots.
  • Set the hidden file flag. Some system folders, notable ~/Library, have this flag by default.

The former is easy to see by running ls -A (-A showing files whose names start with a period), for the latter you need to use ls -lO and look for the value hidden in the column between owning group name and file size.



file.doc is visible

.file.doc is hidden

The user can choose to view invisibles, so a hidden flag is not sufficient to make any file 'unobtainable' to the user, if they are resourceful enough.

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