Unclutter your Dropbox (or any folder) with Cloak

The good thing about iOS text editors and other programs which can sync with Dropbox is that you don't have to use iTunes to back up the documents that you edit on your iPad or iPhone/iPod touch. The bad thing is that almost all of them save their files in a specific named folder in your Dropbox. This can lead to a lot of folders that you probably never use on your Mac, but end up looking at anytime you open your Dropbox.

OS X gives you a way to hide those folders, but it usually involves the use of a command line utility called SetFile, which isn't included with Mac OS X unless you also install the developer tools. That's where Cloak (free, 611 KB .zip download) comes in.

Cloak will let you hide or show any file, either by renaming the file to start with a period, or by setting the "Invisible" Finder Attribute. Renaming the file will cause problems with the aforementioned Dropbox syncing, so you want to use the Invisible Finder Attribute.

Read on for the nitty gritty...

Cloak's UI is a minimal file browser similar to Finder's "Column View" that will show you all of your files. Hidden files are shown in gray, as shown here:

Select the folder or file that you want to show/hide, and check the box next to "Invisible Finder Attribute." Voilà, the file will be hidden in Finder, although you can still access it using the Go » Go to Folder... command.

Current versions of Dropbox will sync these extended attributes, meaning that if you hide them on one computer, they will automatically be hidden on all of your Macs.

You can use Cloak for any file or folder, not just Dropbox. For example, many apps put their data in ~/Documents/ and don't give you the option to store them elsewhere, so you may want to hide some of them as well.

For the Terminally Geeky...

If you prefer the commandline, you can use SetFile -- assuming you (like any self-respecting CLI enthusiast) have the developer tools installed.

SetFile -a V foo

will set the folder/file invisible.

SetFile -a v foo

will make it visible again. You can do this to several files/folders at once, just include all of their names at the end of the command. For example, this is what I did to unclutter my Dropbox folder:

SetFile -a V Printopia Readdledocs_sandbox Thawte\ Roots/ IndexCard GoodReader Elements NoteAndShare BBEdit

Show It All

Just for the sake of completeness, I should also mention that if you want to see all of these files in the Finder, you can enter this in Terminal:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

and when you decide that they were better off hidden, revert that command using

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE

Be sure to restart Finder after each of those commands. If you want to avoid the Terminal for those commands, use the Secrets preference panel. Look for the Finder option "Show hidden files" and check or uncheck the box as desired.

Thanks to fellow TUAWers Mike Rose and Brett Terpstra for helping me track down a GUI app for setting the hidden attribute.