It seems there is no way to run shell commands in Mac OS X without using a Terminal application. I realized this while trying to answer this question on the poster messed up his .bash_profile, making his Terminal app unusable. He needed to rename, edit or delete .bash_profile to get his Terminal back.

However, files starting with a . are hidden by default, so normally you can’t see them in Finder. You can make hidden files visible using this command:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles -bool true

But, how can you run any commands if you don’t have a usable Terminal?

In Linux you could switch to a virtual terminal, login as root and fix things. Probably all desktop / window managers have a shortcut to run shell commands without a terminal. Ironic that there is no similar way in Mac OS X, a system derived from UNIX.

Luckily, there is a way to open hidden files, even if normally they are not shown in Finder:

  1. Open a plain text editor, for example TextEdit
  2. Select File | Open… or press Cmd + O
  3. Navigate to the directory where you want to edit hidden files
  4. Press Command + Shift + > to show hidden files (press again to hide)
  5. Select the file you need to edit

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