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Hiding Applications

By Morgan Rowe | 31 Jul 2013

There are many ways to restrict applications in Mac OS X but one of the simplest methods I use is hiding applications. Hiding applications is a simple way of denying your users access to specific applications. The technique can also be used to hide folders and files.

Browse to the application using Terminal

In order to hide applications, you must first log in as an administrator.

Once you've logged in, open Terminal. Terminal can be found within /Applications/Utilities. Once opened, you'll be prompted for a command. Applications are stored within the /Applications folder so we'll need to navigate ourselves to that folder within the command line. Type the command below followed by enter.

cd /Applications

We're now in the Applications folder. You can confirm this by typing "pwd" and hitting enter. The command will output our current directory.

In order to hide applications, we need to rename them with a period in front of its file name. I'm going to hide the App Store, seeing as you generally don't want your users to access this application. However, you can use the same technique for hiding any application, file, or folder you desire.

We're going to grant ourselves temporary higher privileges to ensure we don't get prompted for our password every time we rename an application. This is an optional step and I don't recommend it if you're not comfortable using the command line. If you've decided not to run this command for security reasons, you'll have to append "sudo mv" to the front of each command. For example, instead of typing "mv App\ Store.app .App\ Store.app", you'll have to type "mv App\ Store.app .App\ Store.app". In order to grant ourself these higher privileges, we enter the following command, followed by your password.

sudo -s

We can now do anything we want without being asked for our password again. This will save us time.

Hide the application using the "mv" command

Although we don't see a file extension in the Finder, all apps end with the ".app" extension. With this in mind, we're going to use the "mv" command to rename the application. Enter the command below followed by return.

mv App\ Store.app .App\ Store.app

You'll notice the backslashes in the command. The backslashes tell the command to escape the following character. If you didn't put the backslashes in, the command wouldn't have worked because all the command line would have read is "mv App", which does nothing. You only need to type the backslashes when there're spaces in the application name.

If you didn't get an error the application has been hidden. You can confirm this by opening a Finder window and browsing to the Applications folder. You shouldn't be able to see the App Store. The "App Store" menu item under the Apple menu will still be able to open the application, though. If the application was in your Dock, you'll also notice that upon clicking on the App Store, it still loads. However, this would not be the case for a user account, only for an administrator, making this an effective technique for "disabling" applications for your users.

Find hidden applications

Go back to the Terminal and type the following command and hit enter.

ls -lah

This command lists the contents of the current directory. You can see all your applications, including the hidden ones right at the top.

Make sure you logout of the superseded user permissions by typing this command.

exit

Reveal a hidden application

If you decide in a couple of days time that you want to unhide the App Store, you just need to rename back to it's original name, like so:

mv .App\ Store.app App\ Store.app

Of course, if you've already closed Terminal, you'll have to repeat the above steps, which have been outlined in the Quick Steps section. If you want to do it the quickest way, you could run the following command to unhide the hidden App Store application.

sudo mv /Applications/.App\ Store.app /Applications/App\ Store.app

This is a good technique for hiding administrative applications or applications that may distract your users. I find hiding the Address Book, App Store, Automator, FaceTime, Mail, Text Edit, Time Machine, iChat and iTunes to be most effective. I also hide a lot of the Utilities within the Utilities folder.