List All Files and Subdirectory Contents on Folder on Mac

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Have you ever wanted to see not just every file in a particular folder, but all the files in those folders buried subfolders? If you’re looking for what is basically a recursive list of files in a given folder, let’s do a great one trick for the Mac OS Finder that allows you to do just that, as well as demonstrating several more advanced approaches using the command line.

How to Expand All Subfolders and List Folder Contents in the Mac OS Finder

To quickly see what’s in all subfolders of a folder in the Finder, open the parent folder and switch to List view. Now you have to hold down the Option key and click the arrow next to the name of the folder to expand that folder and all subfolders at the same time.

Expand subfolders in OS X Finder

As a result, any subfolder in the folder that you clicked with the option-click on the arrow will also reveal its contents:

Recursive directory entries in Mac OS X

Clicking that arrow again will close all subfolders upotherwise it becomes the new default view when you click the arrow.

Keep in mind that if you want to show hidden files using this method, you’ll need to make sure that hidden files are listed individually in the Mac OS X Finder, which will then run through each folder until it’s turned off again.

The above approach will be the easiest method for most users, and the next two methods target the command line and are for those who are comfortable in the Terminal.

List all files and subfolder contents from the command line

To display all files recursively from the command line, you can associate the -R flag with the traditional ls command. This expands subfolders and lists the files contained in them. These commands work in just about all forms of Unix, from Mac OS X to Linux or whatever you come across.

ls -R ~ / Desktop /

Example output would look something like this:

/ Users / macuser / Desktop // wallpapers: Dark Tower.jpg milky-way.jpgcar.jpg ngc602.jpgflaming-star-nebula.jpg ngc6188Kfir2000.jpgwindows.jpg m33.jpg / Users / macuser / Desktop // trip: volcano. jpeg itenerary.txt tickets.JPG

The output is decent, but it could be better.

Using the flags -lah next to -R will show permissions, ownership, modification dates and make reading file information much easier. The -a flag is optional, allowing hidden files to be displayed as well.

ls -lahR ~ / Desktop /

Example output would look like this:

/ Users / macuser / Desktop / wallpapers: total 5464 drwxr-xr-x @ 11 macuser staff 374B Jan 14 3:32 pm .drwxr-xr-x 522 macuser staff 17K Jan 28 10:20 ..- rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 254K Jan 13 3:44 PM Dark Tower.jpg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 101K Jan 14 3:32 PM cars.jpg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 141K 13 Jan 3:44 PM star-nebula.jpg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 206K Jan 14 09:57 nintendo.jpg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 134K Jan 13 3:44 pm m33. jpg-rw-r– r– @ 1 macuser staff 1.4M Jan 13 3:30 pm milky-way.jpg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 153K Jan 13 3:44 pm ngc602.jpg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 194K 13 Jan 15:44 windows.jpg / Users / macuser / Desktop / trip: total 360 drwxr-xr-x @ 6 macuser staff 204B 9 Dec 13:43 .drwxr-xr-x 522 macuser staff 17K Jan 22 10:20 .. -rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 6.0K December 9 13:43 .DS_Store-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 30K December 8 12:41 volcano.jpeg-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser staff 45K December 8 12:41 pm route.txt-rw-r – r– @ 1 macuser personee l 88K Dec 9 12:31 PM tickets.JPG

You will notice that the path to each file is listed above the files themselves, making the subfolders similar to the said Finder method up top. You can get the path to continue with the file name by using a completely different command.

Create a recursive list of all files with displayed paths in the entire folder

Finally, if you want a list of all files with their full paths specified, you can go to the find command.

search ~ / Desktop / Sample / type f

This will dump the full path to each file in a list:

/Users/macuser/Desktop/Sample/x11.jpg/Users/macuser/Desktop/Sample/Files/alpha-tool-preview.jpg/Users/macuser/Desktop/Sample/Files/alpha-tool.jpg/Users/macuser /Desktop/Sample/Files/reveal-editing-tools-preview.jpg/Users/macuser/Desktop/Sample/Files/save-transparent-png.jpg

If you want to share a directory listing with someone, the find command will likely provide superior results. In that case, you can simply dump the output to a file by adding a> at the end like this:

find / Path / To / List -type f> FilesWithPaths.txt

The flag “-type f” indicates only regular files. If you want to display more objects or symbolic links, please refer to the man page for more information.

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The time to complete the How to List All Files and Subdirectory Contents in a Folder on Mac tutorial is 10+ minutes.

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mac OS



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