My favorite little-known Mac apps

Originally published at: My favorite little-known Mac apps | Boing Boing

Is there a Mac app that will make navigating the file structure somehow intuitive to Mac users? I have had this situation in the last week on two separate occasions where I’ve said, “Just go to the file that is located at [HomeDirectory]/.ssh/ and send it to me.” and they have had no idea whatsoever what to do. Finder is a terrible file explorer.


Any file directory that starts with a “.” will be invisible in the Finder, so no surprise there. There are valid criticisms of the Finder, but I don’t think hiding . files is one.

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I have no idea who to blame it on since I never use a Mac, really. But I don’t seem to have this issue with Windows users.

I used to use Divvy, but at some point Better Touch Tool got window-resizing features added to it. They’re not quite as fancy as Divvy’s, but I never used all of them. It’s an extremely useful piece of software.

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Yes, it’s called Terminal and it comes with the OS.

You can open a Finder window to it in Terminal with ‘open ~/.ssh’.


I have a hard enough time trying to get them to open Terminal, but that is a really useful trick, I had no idea that “open directory_name” would do anything.

Terminal is very powerful, especially if you are familiar with UNIX.

And because of that Terminal is very dangerous, especially if you are familiar with UNIX.


Finder does have a way to go directly to a normally hidden folder:
Go > Go to Folder…
From there you can type or paste in any path you wanted. [Edited to add: you can use “~” as the home-directory shorthand in there.]

I almost never use this myself; I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of users had never even noticed it was there.


Tyke does seem like it would be particularly useful for people who are trying to pass back and forth between Mac users and non-Mac users.

If you’re not keen on Terminal you can use Cmd+Shift+. (that’s a full stop) to toggle the visibility of hidden files and folders in the Finder.


I like to use the shell, and the “open” command. I used to have a finder toolbar icon to “open a shell” here, but third party extensions to the finder rarely last Apple’s sandbox policies.

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It’s a Unix thing: files & directories that begin with a dot are hidden from casual view.
Windows uses a special bit for that in the directory entry, so it’s not an issue for Win users.

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I’m not a Mac user, but a quick Google of “finder view hidden files” suggests it can be done while pressing the Command, Shift, and Period keys at the same time.

(ETA @jameswest beat me to it.)


Yes, I found both the cmd+shift+. solution and the Go>Go to Folder solution. The difficulty was that I actually had to get into a zoom meeting with both of these users (who are supposedly DBAs!) in order to lead them through this. What I really wanted is some sort of software install that will somehow be intuitive for mac users in general so I don’t have to do so every single time. I really don’t want them to get into this cargo cult of having to look up “Whenever Frank say to get a file the steps are open “Finder” then hit cmd+shift+. then …” but to actually be able to understand and do what I am saying.

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Two very helpful utilities that I’ve used for years are: 1) Pester. A simple alarm that you can set for meetings, errands, etc. Prompt will appear on screen and you can set icon to bounce in dock. 2) EasyFind. Search tool that is more accurate & faster than Finder search tool. Works very well on non-indexed servers!

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It’s just Finder with some trivially useful (but actually useful) bits added, but I have had TotalFinder installed forever.

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Textsniper - does anyone have an idea about something similar for a PC? I’d be extremely grateful as it seems to do what I want.

Capture2Text is the closest I know. Press a hotkey and select a portion of the screen. The area under the cursor is OCRed and the resulting text is made available to copy/paste.

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My favorite little Mac app is Stay. It remembers the positions of every window in every app for every monitor configuration you use. So it knows you email goes there on your external monitor at home, but over there on your big dual screens at work, and over there when using no external screen, etc.

Macs are still bad at knowing where to put windows when the displays change, even after 30 years. Stay is a magical thing that just works and the author has meticulously maintained it for decades. I won’t use a Mac without it since discovering it many years ago.