Desktop problem

Patrick O'Callaghan pocallaghan at
Sun Aug 15 04:05:22 UTC 2010

On Sat, 2010-08-14 at 19:46 -0700, JD wrote:
> > Why do folks insist on using . files rather than making them
> visible?
> > Makes troubleshooting hell.
> >
> > James McKenzie
> >
> I do not know the history of why they chose dot files AND make them 
> invisible to the shell.

They didn't. Dot files are not invisible to the Shell or indeed to any
other program or script, see below.

> But one thought comes to mind is perhaps to make ls (without -a)
> present a less cluttered view?
> Maybe someone with info on the first bell labs unix version 6 has more
> detailed knowledge of this.

Every directory contains two entries, "." and "..". To stop cluttering
up directory listings, "ls" doesn't list anything with a "." as the
first character in its name (except with the -a option of course). The
fact that certain files and directories would only be listed when
explicitly asked for turned out to appeal to programmers as a way to
keep config information out of sight, even though that wasn't the
original purpose of the dot file convention.

There is absolutely nothing special about dot files except their
treatment by "ls" (though some other file-browsing apps also follow the


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