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"Invisible"
Authored by: jalex on Oct 07, '02 04:18:30PM
Hi all- just thought I'd offer a little background on these invisible files/directories. Back in MacOS 9 days, an invisible file was one that had a metadata attribute set on it (i.e., a thing that was not part of the name, or part of the contents of the file) that told the Finder (and the standard file services dialogs, etc) not to display the file when somebody asks. This was an attribute that a file could have in HFS and HFS+. To my knowledge, this attribute is still around today, although I don't know if the OS X Finder honors it or not.

The Invisible files that are mentioned in this hint are invisible as a hold-over from a convenience feature of unix shells, and the 'ls' program. Almost all unix programs that require any settings store their settings in files that are called "dot files" or "resource files" or "rc files". The first term stems from the fact that they all begin with a ".". The other two from the fact that the files store resources that the program will use, and commonly the file names will end in the letters "rc". (Note that this has nothing to do with a Mac resource fork.) Anyway, since so many programs would create these dot files, and most of the time you want to ignore them, it was a pretty good idea simply not to show any file that began with a "." unless they were specifically asked for.

Because there are still enough unix-isms in MacOS X, Apple wisely expected that users would start accumulating dot files and chose to have the finder/file services hide those as a convenience. And that's your unix culture lecture of the day.

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