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How to manage files whose names begin with a dot, like '.htaccess'

Filenames beginning with a dot are considered "hidden files" in the Unix world. These files often do not appear in the directory listings when viewing folder contents with FTP. Many problems arise from this fact.

Fluid Dynamics scripts are forced to use dot-files in some cases. For example, the important Apache access control file ".htaccess" begins with a dot. Other file names, like ".webauth_passwd" in Genesis, were chosen to start with a dot to make them more secure. You need to be able to manipulate dot-files to make backups or to uninstall our scripts. In some cases, you also need to manipulate dot-files during the install.

Command-Line Manipulation of Dot-Files

On Windows, Unix, Linux, or Mac OS X, use the command-line FTP program. Command-line FTP is included with all modern operating systems. It uses a powerful, consistent, easy-to-learn syntax.

On Windows, you can access the command line by going to "Start" => "Run" => "command". Here's an example:

Windows Start menu, with 'Run' selected

Entering 'command' into the Start/Run input

Once you are at the command line, type "ftp hostname" where "hostname" is the name of your web site. Follow the login prompts.

FTP username/password prompt

Once you log in, change directory to your web folder. Use the command "ls -al" to list all files and folders. The "-al" flags should force the listing of dot-files.

FTP directory listing

The command "get .htaccess" will retrieve the file ".htaccess". Use this command if you are making a backup, or if you are downloading an existing file so that you can make updates.

The command "put .htaccess" will upload the file ".htaccess" from your local folder up to the server. Use this command if you are installing the product, restoring from a backup, or uploading an updated file.

The command "dele .htaccess" (for files) or "rmdir .foo" (for folders) will delete the file or folder. Use this when uninstalling.

The command "rename .htaccess ht.foo" can be used to rename the file to something without a dot. This is a better option than "dele" when you are just starting out, since you can rename things back the way they were if necessary.

In some rare cases, the FTP server will refuse to list dot-files even when you use the "ls -al" command. Even in those cases, though, you can still manipulate the files using commands like "get .htaccess" or "put .htaccess". To be safe, if you are about to upload a ".htaccess" file into a folder that appears to lack one, you should test this with the command "get .htaccess" first. If the server responds "550 No such file" then you're safe -- there really isn't any file with that name. But if the server responds "226 Transfer completed", then that means there was already a file there with that name. You should merge your changes with the existing file and then upload the completed copy.

"Cannot Delete - Folder Not Empty" Error

When you delete our scripts, your FTP program may complain about being unable to delete a folder with the name "data" in it (i.e., "searchdata" for FDSE or "script_data" for Genesis).

These problems arise because there is an orphaned, hidden .htaccess file in those folders. Your FTP program is failing to delete it when it tries to delete all files and folders, because it can't "see" the hidden file. You must go in and manually delete this hidden file. Even if it doesn't show up in the folder list using "ls -al", just have faith and use the "dele .htaccess" command from within those data folders. This will delete the hidden file and you will be able to complete the uninstall.

Alternate Methods

For dot-files associated with Fluid Dynamics scripts, you can always contact Fluid Dynamics to have us manipulate your dot-files for you. Always include your FTP hostname, username, and password, and instructions on what you want done. For example, "visit foo.com user:x pass:y and delete the hidden file in the 'searchdata' folder which is giving me trouble" or "visit foo.com user:x pass:y and update my .htaccess file to support Guardian". Turn-around time on these requests is 24 to 48 hours.

    "How to manage files whose names begin with a dot, like '.htaccess'"