View Hidden Files in Mac Open and Save Dialog Boxes

A simple keyboard trick shows you the secrets

Apple hides certain files and folders on your Mac to prevent you from accidentally changing or deleting important data. When you need to modify one of those hidden files, you must reveal it in the Open or Save dialog boxes by pressing the Command+Shift+. (period) combo while the dialog is open.

The Downloads folder in macOS with the Desktop file highlighted

Yosemite (10.10) and Earlier

A display bug with showing and hiding files in an Open or Save dialog box means that the keyboard shortcut doesn't work in the Finder's Column view mode in macOS Yosemite and earlier. The remaining Finder views (icon, list, cover flow) work fine for displaying hidden files.

El Capitan (10.11) and Later

The keyboard shortcut for showing hidden files in Open and Save dialog boxes works fine in El Capitan and later versions of macOS. However, there's one additional detail. Some Open and Save dialog boxes don't display all the icons for the Finder views in the dialog box toolbar.

If you need to change to a different Finder view, try selecting the Sidebar icon (first one on the left) in the toolbar. This toggle should cause all the Finder view icons to become available.

The Invisible File Attribute

Using the Open or Save dialog box to view hidden files does not change the files' invisible attribute. You cannot use this keyboard shortcut to save a visible file as an invisible one, nor can you open an invisible file and then save it as a visible one. Whatever the files' visibility attribute was set to when you started working with the file is how the file remains.