Mac Tip: Search for Hidden Files

Usually Macs are good at hiding the things you don’t need to mess with and showing you what to do when you need to do it. There are a few times when you want to get in and muck around with those hidden things, and it can be frustrating not to have clear instructions about how to get at them. As Mac OS X has been updated, it seems like the number of things in the hidden category has increased, which isn’t always a happy thing. What I used to be able to find relatively easily has become more of a challenge in the labyrinth of OS X Mt. Lion. (But I’m not really complaining — Windows is even worse in this regard, as is iOS).

This morning, I wanted to uninstall some software that didn’t have an uninstaller. I had installed a trial version that ran out before I made much use of it, so I wanted to take it off my computer. Doing that was easy enough by dragging the application to the trash, I know from past experience that there are files lurking on my drive that I’d like to delete. I searched online, but couldn’t find any instructions. I searched my drive for the software’s name, but nothing came up. Yet I could find a folder in my Library when I looked in Application Support, and I suspected there were more files than that. Searching online some more, I found a few more possibilities of places to look (PDF  Services, for one), and I knew there were probably a couple of Preferences files, but finding those with the arcane names they have in the super-long list of preferences was next to impossible. So I still wanted to search for them, but couldn’t find out how.

Let me take a step back for those who aren’t OS X afficionados. You may be saying, “Wait a minute, how did you open your Library folder? I can’t find mine!” It’s true this is one area that has become hidden in Lion and above. I remembered the trick to see it. Hold the Option key and then click on the Go menu in Finder. You will now see the Library folder as an option (this takes you to your User account library, not the main library, which you can see without this trick). Knowing this trick is what helped me figure out how to do my search (and I’m writing this post so I’ll remember it next time, as well as to help others, since I didn’t find any good advice online about searching for these kinds of files).

It eventually occurred to me that I might be able to find the files in my Library by first going there using the trick I just described. Once I was looking at my Library folder, I could search on the app’s name, and if I clicked on “Library” in the search options, then it focused my search on this folder and because I was in it, the files were now visible. I found two preference files that I hadn’t been able to find when I was outside the library folder. I just confirmed this with the search below. When I click on “This Mac,” I don’t see the files for an application, but when I click on “Library,” I do.

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