Akshat is a software engineer, product designer and the co-founder of Scrutify. He's an experienced Linux professional and the senior editor of this blog. He...Read more
To display hidden files in Linux, try the following three solutions:
- Command Line Interface (CLI) allows efficient management of hidden files in Linux using commands like ls -a to list all files, including hidden ones, and ls -ld .?* to display only hidden files.
- Graphical User Interface (GUI) offers a user-friendly approach to managing hidden files in Linux, typically by toggling the visibility of hidden files through options in the file manager’s menu or toolbar.
- Terminal advance customization options in the Terminal, such as modifying the configuration file of Bash or Zsh to add an alias ls=’ls -a’, enable the display of hidden files by default when executing the ls command.
Besides these methods, you can use third-party tools like Ranger, Nemo, and Thunar. They offer specialized solutions for managing hidden files in Linux, providing features such as file preview, customization options, and bulk renaming. But remember, follow the best practices to manage the hidden files in Linux. This includes organizing them regularly, consulting documentation, creating backups of critical files, and staying updated with Linux distributions and their file managers.
Read on the article below to learn more about how to display and manage hidden files in Linux with three simple methods, top third-party tools, and five additional tips.
Hidden files play a significant role in the Linux file system, This is because they are often configuration files, have sensitive data, or are important system files for functioning the Linux distro. This is why accessing and managing the hidden files in Linux is important for system administration, troubleshooting, and advanced customization. In this article, I will explain three methods to display hidden files in Linux and provide step-by-step instructions. Moreover, you’ll also get to learn about the top three third-party tools, some important key points, and five best practices to help you master the skill of managing hidden files in Linux.
How to Display Only Hidden Files in Linux
To display hidden files in Linux, you can use either the command line interface (CLI) with commands like
ls -a and
ls -ld .?* or the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) by toggling the visibility of hidden files in the file manager’s menu or toolbar. Advanced customization options in the Terminal also enable displaying hidden files by default.
1. Command Line Interface (CLI)
The command line interface (CLI) provides a powerful and flexible way to manage hidden files in Linux. Follow these steps to display hidden files using the Linux CLI:
- In the Terminal, navigate to the directory using the
cdcommand where you want to display hidden files or start from your home directory. If you see the following output, it means that you are in the home directory.
- Enter the following command to list all files, including hidden ones:
-aoption ensures that all files, including hidden ones, are displayed. You will now see a complete listing of all files, including the hidden ones.
- To display only hidden files, use the following command:
ls -ld .?*
- The ls command with the -ld options lists files in long format, providing detailed information. The .?* pattern matches all hidden files in the current directory.
Remember, the CLI method offers extensive flexibility and can be used in various scenarios to display hidden files efficiently. So, you can customize the command as needed by combining it with other options or using wildcards to filter the results.
2. Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) provide a user-friendly way to manage hidden files in Linux. The steps to display hidden files may vary depending on your desktop environment. Here’s a general approach:
- Click the file manager specific to your Linux distribution to launch it on the desktop.
- Navigate to the directory where you want to display hidden files. Or you can simply stay in the Home directory.
- Look for an option in the file manager’s menu or toolbar to toggle the visibility of hidden files. In GNOME (Nautilus), press Ctrl + H to toggle hidden file visibility.
- Once you tick mark the hidden files option or press the Ctrl + H keys, you’ll see all the hidden files in the current directory.
3. Terminal Advance Customization
If you are comfortable with the Terminal, advanced techniques and customization options can help display hidden files in Linux. To do so, follow these steps:
- Press the Ctrl + H keys and head to the configuration file of Bash or Zsh to customize the shell environment to show hidden files by default.
- Modify the configuration file (~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc) and add the alias
ls='ls -a'line. Then, click the Save button at the top-right and close the file.
- This will make the
lscommand display hidden files whenever this command is executed in the Linux Terminal.
Remember to consult the documentation or resources specific to your Terminal emulator and shell to fully explore the available customization options.
3 Third-Party Tools to View Hidden Files in Linux
In addition to built-in methods, various third-party tools and applications specialize in managing hidden files in Linux. You can consider these third-party tools and applications if you prefer a specialized file management solution with advanced features for hidden files. Here are a few noteworthy options:
Ranger is a dynamic, vim-inspired file manager for the console. Its visual interface provides a clear view of your directory structure, and keyboard shortcuts offer fast navigation. It boasts several key functionalities, including previewing file contents, a bookmarking system, automatic directory change on navigation, and the ability to bulk rename files. Its minimal interface, integrated file search, and shell-like command line make it a reliable tool for managing files efficiently. Here’s how you can install and use Ranger:
- Install Ranger using your distribution package manager. On Ubuntu, you can use:
sudo apt install ranger
- Enter your user account password and wait for the installation to complete.
- Just type
rangerto launch its interface in the Terminal window.
- Press zh to view hidden files in the Linux Terminal via Ranger’s interface. You can navigate using arrow keys. To navigate into a directory, press the right arrow key or press l. But to return from the current directory, press the left arrow key or h.
- To exit the Ranger file manager interface, you can simply press q. This command will quit Ranger and return you to your Terminal prompt.
Nemo is the default file manager for the Cinnamon desktop environment, delivering a feature-rich, intuitive, and graphical interface for managing your files. It provides a variety of features such as a dual-pane interface for easy file transfer, customizable icon sizes, built-in “Open as root“, and much more. This tool is quite reliable if you prefer comprehensive file management features at your fingertips. Here’s how you can install and use Nemo:
- Install Nemo on Ubuntu using the following command:
sudo apt install nemo
- Once you execute the command, enter your user account password. Then type y and press Enter to continue the installation of this tool.
- Launch Nemo by typing
nemointo the Terminal window.
- To display hidden files, go to the View menu and select Show Hidden Files, or use the Ctrl + H shortcut.
Thunar is the default file manager for the Xfce desktop environment, known for its speed and simplicity while still providing an array of custom options. It is a good choice if you are seeking a balance between lightweight design and functionality. One unique feature of Thunar is custom actions, which allow you to define new commands for the context menu. This tool also has advanced features like bulk rename and an easily navigable path breadcrumb. Here’s how you can install and use Thunar:
- Install Thunar using your distribution package manager. For Ubuntu, you’d use:
sudo apt install thunar
- After you run the command, you’ll be prompted to input your user account password. Then, to go ahead with the installation of this tool, type y and hit the Enter key.
- Start the Thunar interface by typing
thunarin the Terminal window.
- To display hidden files, navigate to the View menu at the top of the Thunar window, then click Show Hidden Files. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + H to toggle the visibility of hidden files.
3 Things to Understand About the Hidden Files in Linux
In Linux, hidden files are denoted by a preceding period (.) in their filenames. This convention designates files that should be invisible to standard file listings by default. While hidden files are typically configuration or system-related, it’s important to note that not all hidden files fall into this category. Some key points to understand about hidden files in Linux are:
1. Purpose of Hidden Files in Linux
Hidden files are an integral part of the Linux file system, serving diverse purposes depending on the file’s context and location. They often contain user-specific settings, application preferences, cache data, or logs. These files typically start with a dot (.) and can be viewed using the
ls -a command. For example, to view hidden files in your home directory, use the
ls -a ~ command.
2. Application Preferences Version Control
Many hidden files contain application preferences. Modifying these files that can lead to unexpected behavior in the associated applications. If you accidentally modify a hidden file and need to revert the changes, you might have to use a command such as a git checkout followed by the filename to revert the changes if you’re using version control. Your command should look like this:
git checkout.filename. To verify the changes, use the
git status command to see the status of your repository. Otherwise, you may need to undo the changes or reinstall the application manually.
3. Navigating to Hidden Directories
Hidden directories, denoted by a preceding period in their names, can contain numerous hidden files and subdirectories within them. You can navigate these directories just like any other, but be aware that changes can have system-wide effects. For example, to navigate to a hidden directory, you could use the
cd command like so:
cd .hidden_directory_name. To list all files and subdirectories within a hidden directory, use the
ls -a command.
5 Quick Tips to Manage Hidden Files
By following these additional tips, you can ensure a more organized and efficient approach to managing hidden files in Linux while minimizing the risk of unintended consequences or data loss.
- 🔒 Exercise Caution with Hidden Files: Hidden files in Linux are those that start with a dot (.) prefix. These files usually store user preferences or vital system information. You should understand the purpose of these files before you modify or delete them. You can list the hidden files in a directory using the
- 🧹 Regular Cleanup and Organization: Review hidden files and directories periodically to remove any that are no longer needed. This can be achieved using the rm command. For example, you would use
rm .someHiddenFileto remove a hidden file.
- 📚 Consult Documentation and Seek Assistance: Linux provides man pages for most commands and configuration files. If unsure about a hidden file’s purpose, use the
mancommand. For example, you can type
man some-commandto access the man page of a command. Online forums such as StackOverflow or Ubuntu Forums can also provide assistance.
- 💾 Backup Critical Hidden Files: It’s important to create a backup of important hidden files before modifying them. This can be done with the cp command. For instance,
cp .someImportantHiddenFile .someImportantHiddenFile.bakwould create a backup of .someImportantHiddenFile.
- 🔄 Stay Updated with Linux Distributions and File Managers: Regularly updating your Linux distribution and file managers ensures you have the latest features and improvements. The specific command depends on the package manager your distribution uses. For Ubuntu, you would use
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade, while for Fedora, it’s
sudo dnf update. File managers like Nautilus or Dolphin also provide options to manage hidden files.
To Sum Up
Mastering the display of hidden files in Linux is essential for effective system administration, troubleshooting, and customization. You can easily access and manage hidden files in Linux according to your specific needs by utilizing the three basic methods and top third-party tools outlined in this guide.
To learn more about Linux file management and system administration, consider reading my detailed guide on how to sort files using the ls command, unzip GZ files, and learn multiple ways to count files using Linux CLI. Remember, continuous learning will empower you to become a proficient Linux user, enhance your productivity, and unlock the full potential of your Linux system. Happy learning!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I hide specific files in Linux?
To hide a file in Linux, you simply rename it by adding a preceding period (.) to its filename. For example, if you have a file named example.txt and you want to hide it, you would rename it to .example.txt. You can use the mv (move) command for this:
mv example.txt .example.txt. This command renames the file by moving it to a new name that starts with a dot, effectively making it hidden. However, note that this doesn’t add any extra security to the file; it simply prevents it from showing up in standard directory listings.
Are hidden files the same as system files in Linux?
While some hidden files are indeed system files, not all hidden files are system files. A system file is a file that is crucial for the system’s functioning, and these can be hidden or visible. Conversely, a hidden file is simply a file that doesn’t show up in standard directory listings. Many hidden files are user-specific configuration files, also known as “dotfiles“, such as .bashrc or .profile. These files store user preferences and settings for various applications and tools.
How do I search for hidden files in Linux?
To search for hidden files in Linux, you can use the find command. Here’s an example command that searches the current directory and all subdirectories for hidden files:
find . -name ".*". This command tells find to search in the current directory (represented by .) for files whose names start with a dot, which is the naming convention for hidden files in Linux.
What are the security implications of hidden files in Linux?
Hidden files in Linux are not inherently more secure than non-hidden files. Their visibility can be easily toggled in most file managers, and they show up in directory listings when the
-a option is used with
ls. However, by convention, many sensitive configuration files are made hidden to help protect them from accidental modification or deletion. This doesn’t provide any real security against malicious actors, but it can prevent accidental mishaps. For actual file security, other measures such as file permissions, encryption, and access control lists should be used.