I'm trying to write a bash script that delete all empty directories as well as any directory that only container the .DS_Store file that Mac generates. I can do the former pretty easily with find -depth -type d -empty but I can't figure how to find directories that only contain .DS_Store.

Is there an easy way of doing this without writing my own recursive search function?


POSIX sh + find

Here's a solution that relies only on POSIX find and POSIX sh. List all directories, then filter those that only contain an entry called .DS_Store.

find -type d -exec sh -c '
    cd "$0" &&
    for x in * .[!.]* ..?*; do
      if [ "$x" = ".DS_Store" ]; then continue; fi;
      if [ -e "$x" ] || [ -L "$x" ]; then exit 1; fi;
    done' {} \; -print
  • I use find to enumerate all directories recursively.
  • On each directory, I call sh to run some shell code.
  • The for loop enumerates all the files in the directory.
  • The body of the loop skips .DS_Store.
  • Each of the three patterns is left unchanged if it doesn't match any file. [ -e "$x" ] || [ -L "$x" ] captures any file including broken symbolic links; the only way they don't match is if a pattern was left unchanged.
  • Therefore the shell snippet runs exit 1 if there is a file other than .DS_Store, and returns 0 for success otherwise.
  • Change -print to -exec … if you want to do something other than printing the names.


Here's a solution in zsh. Change echo to whatever command you want to run.

setopt extended_glob
echo **/*(/DNe\''a=($REPLY/^.DS_Store(DNY1)); ((!#a))'\')
  • **/* enumerates all files recursively.
  • With the glob qualifier /, **/*(/) enumerates all directories recursively.
  • The glob qualifier N ensures that you get an empty list if there are no matches (by default zsh signals an error).
  • The glob qualifier D causes dot files to be included.
  • The glob qualifier e\''CODE'\' runs CODE on each matching file name and limits the matches to those for which CODE succeeds. CODE can use the variable $REPLY to refer to the file name.
  • ^.DS_Store matches files that are not called .DS_Store.
  • Thus the CODE limits the matches to those for which the number of files other than .DS_Store is zero.
  • The glob qualifier Y1 limits the matches to one (it's only an efficiency improvement).


Here's a solution in Python (it works in both 2 and 3). The structure is rather clearer despite this being compressed into a one-liner.

python -c 'import os; print("\n".join([path for path, dirs, files in os.walk(".") if dirs == [] and files in ([], [".DS_Store"])]))'
  • os.walk returns a list of directories recursively under its argument. For each directory, it produces a triple containing path (the path to the directory), dirs (the list of subdirectories) and files (the list of files in the directory that aren't themselves directories).
  • [… for … in os.walk(…) if …] filters the result of os.walk.
  • The if clause keeps an element only if it has no subdirectories and no files other than .DS_Store.
  • The script prints the accepted elements, joined with a newline in between and with a final newline.

Easy solution: first, delete all such files:

find <path> -type f -name "*.DS_Store" -delete

then delete empty directories.

Update based on comment: In order to delete only directories that have only such files, you will need something like (caution: not tested at all, I will not be surprised if it needs to be a bit more involved):

find <path> -type d | while read dir; do
    if ! ls --ignore=*.DS_Store $dir; then
        rm -rf $dir

Explanation of complicated part:

ls --ignore=*.DS_Store $dir

should print files in $dir that do not end in .DS_Store. If there are none, the expression is False and the if-block is executed.

  • I though of this but I don't want to delete all .DS_Store files, only the ones in directories that are otherwise empty. – David Dec 17 '18 at 20:04
  • 1
    Sorry to spoil the fun, but the standard ls on macOS doesn't know about --ignore... – nohillside Dec 17 '18 at 20:27
  • 2
    in that case, --ignore can be emulated with suitable 'grep -v' – WerKater Dec 17 '18 at 20:33

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