Your Mac Is Hiding Your Library Folder

Three Ways to Access the Library Folder on Your Mac

Finder's Go menu with Library visible
Unhide the Library Folder, the Apple Way. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Have you noticed something missing? Ever since OS X Lion, your Mac has been hiding the Library folder. This trend of hiding folders that contain important preferences your Mac uses has continued, even though the Mac operating system name changed to macOS.

Before OS X Lion, the library folder could be found at:

Users/home folder/

where 'home folder' is the short name of your currently logged in user account.

For example, if your account's short name is bettyo, the path to your Library would be:

Users/bettyo/Library

The Library folder contains many of the resources that installed applications need to use, including application preference files, application support files, plug-in folders, and ever since OS X Lion, the plists that describe the saved state of applications.

Resume and Saved States

I've already had to manually delete the saved state for one application, because it was always opening a window in a location I didn't want, just because I once quit the application with a window open there. Having to delete the saved state seems to happen to me often enough that I would prefer to have easier access to the Library folder, where the saved state information is stored. But that's not the only reason to want to access the Library folder.

The Library Folder and Troubleshooting Your Mac

The users Library has long been a go-to location for troubleshooting issues with individual applications or components shared by multiple applications.

If you haven't heard the refrain "Delete the application's plist," you either haven't been using a Mac for very long, or you've been lucky enough not to experience an application behaving badly.

It's not clear why Apple decided to hide the users Library folder, but there are multiple ways to get it back; two provided by Apple (depending oh the version of OS X you are using) and one by the underlying file system.

The method to use depends on whether you want permanent access to the Library folder, or only when you need to go there.

Make the Library Visible Permanently

Apple hides the Library folder by setting a file system flag associated with the folder. Any folder on your Mac can have its visibility flag turned on or off; Apple just chose to set the Library folder's visibility flag to the off state. To reset the visibility flag, do the following:

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities.
  2. Enter the following command at the Terminal prompt:
    chflags nohidden ~/Library
  3. Press enter or return.
  4. Once the command is executed, you can quit Terminal. The Library folder will now be visible in the Finder.
  5. Should you ever wish to set the Library folder back to its default hidden state in OS X or macOS, simply launch Terminal and issue the following Terminal command:
    chflags hidden ~/Library
  6. Press enter or return.

Unhide the Library Folder, the Apple Way

There's another way to access the hidden Library folder without having to make use of Terminal, which has the side effect of revealing every hidden file on your Mac. This method will only make the Library folder visible, and only for as long as you keep the Finder window for the Library folder open.

  1. With either the desktop or a Finder window as the front most application, hold down the option key and select the Go menu.
  2. The Library folder will be listed as one of the items in the Go menu.
  3. Select Library and a Finder window will open showing the contents of the Library folder.
  4. If you close the Library folder's Finder window, the folder will once again be hidden from view.

Access the Library the Easy Way (OS X Mavericks and later)

If you're using OS X Mavericks or later, you have the easiest way of all to permanently access the hidden Library folder. This is the method I use, and I recommend it for anyone who wants permanent access and isn't worried about accidentally modifying or deleting a file from the Library folder.

  1. Open a Finder window and navigate to your Home folder.
  2. From the Finder menu, select View, Show View Options.
  3. Place a checkmark in the box labeled Show Library Folder.

Reference:

chflags man page

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