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Linux hints and tips and tweaks

Show or hide hidden files and folders on the disk

Go to your home folder in the file browser (Nautilus in Gnome systems like Ubuntu and Dolphin in KDE distros), and you'll see folders like Desktop, Downloads, Music, Pictures and so on. There aren't many and there is just a handful. There aren't many files either and there may just be one or two. There are actually more files and folders than at first appears because a lot of them are hidden from view. Select View, Show hidden files (in Gnome/Nautilus or KDE/Dolphin) and lots of new files and folders will be displayed. You don't usually need to view or access the hidden files and folders because they are mostly system and application settings, logs or data, so select View, Show hidden files again to hide them. What's odd is that this setting does not affect file dialogs that applications use for open/save as and this is confusing.

Select File, Open in an application and you should see just the normal files. Now you might think that the show/hide files setting in Nautilus is a system-wide one, but it's not. Right click in the open file dialog and tick Show hidden files. Now all the hidden files and folders is visible. Now this is a system-wide setting and if you do this for one application then it affects all applications. Except for Nautilus, which ignores it.

On KDE 4.3.2 there's a spanner icon in the top right corner of open/save dialogs and this has the Show hidden files setting. Right clicking doesn't give the option. As with Gnome and Nautilus, the setting is independent of Dolphin, but once set in one program it's set for all programs' open/save dialog.

I kept wondering why I kept getting all the junk appearing in file open/save dialogs when Nautilus was set not to show hidden files. Then I discovered the right click Show hidden files option and turned it off.

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