6 Ways To Locate Recently Created Or Used Files & Other Items On Your Mac

Ads by Google

recently used files macIt’s quite easy to accumulate hundreds or thousands of files and folders on your computer, but it is often more difficult to locate what you were looking for no matter how organized you try to be. For Apple users, the Mac operating system includes several ways to find and keep track of document files, photos, applications, and other saved content.

Though I have been a Mac user for over 20 years, I am still sometimes have difficulty locating files and other items I cannot remember the name of, or don’t use that often. There are numerous third-party applications like Default Folder X that keeps track of your recently used and favorite files and applications, but there also a few OS X built-in features and hacks that you should know about.

Finder View for Recently Used Files on Mac

Sometimes when I’m looking for a file or folder I recently used but can’t remember their name, or where I put them, I turn to the Arrange By feature, which arranges your files by Application, Category, Date Added, Date Last Opened, Size, or Label. This feature is found in the toolbar of any opened Finder Window.

recently used files mac

So for example, say you’re looking for an application you downloaded recently or even months ago, but you can’t remember the name of it. You might open the Applications folder and scroll down until you find it, but if you have hundreds of applications, scrolling may take some time. So you might try setting the view of your collection to List or Column, and then use the Arrange feature to filter the collection by Category type or Date Added.

recently opened files mac

Ads by Google

I have nearly 500 applications installed on my Mac, and surprisingly the Arrange by Category is pretty accurate for filtering applications by categories, e.g. Productivity, Social Networking, Music, Video, Utilities, Finance, Games, Graphics & Design, etc. However, this category feature works mainly for applications downloaded from the App Mac Store. Non-store applications are put in the “Other” category.

recently opened files mac

By the way, if the Arrange or View tool is not in your Toolbar, simply go to Finder > View > Customize Toolbar… and those tools to the Finder toolbar.

Arrange By Size

I also use the Arrange by Size feature in the Finder to locate large files that might be taking up space on a small 60GB MacBook Air. Using this feature works the same way as above. For example, open your Documents or Pictures folder and set it to List View. Then select Arrange by Size. The largest files and folders will be placed at the top.

recently opened files mac

Recent Folders & Items

If you want to quickly locate folders you recently opened, click Finder > Go > Recent Folders.

find recently used files mac

Similarly, if you click on the Apple icon in the top-left of your desktop, you can select Recent Items in the drop-down menu. It will display all your most recently used and added applications, files, and documents.

find recently used files mac

Recent Items In Dock

If you find Recent Items in the menubar as useful, you might want add a Recent Items folder to your Dock. To do so, launch Terminal (located in the Utilities folder of the Application folder), and copy and paste the following command:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'

Hit the Return key, and then type

Killall Dock

Hit the Return key again, and Terminal will do its thing. Now in your Dock, a Recent Items folder should appear next to the Trash can. When you click on it, your most recently opened Applications should pop up in Grid or Fan view.

find recently used files mac

By right- or Control-clicking on the folder, you can change the list of items to Recent Documents, Servers, Volumes, or Items.

Recent items dock 2

“Recents” Smart Folder

Another way to keep track of recent items is to add a “Recents” Smart Folder to the sidebar of the Finder. You do this by going to Finder > New Smart Folder. From there, click on the + button on the left side of the search, and then add another search criteria, as show below.

Recent folders 1

Set up the type of search you want, such recent PDFs, and then save the search to your Documents folder, or wherever you want to locate it. Before you save it, be sure the Save to Sidebar is enabled.

Recent folders 2

You can also create recent smart playlists in iTunes and recent smart albums in iPhoto.

Recent Safari Searches

In the most recent updated version of Safari, Apple took out the dedicated recent searches window. The URL window is now also used for Google, Bing, or Yahoo! searches. However, you can still access your search history by first deleting any text in the URL/Search window, and then either click on the Search icon, or press the spacebar on your keyboard. Your list of recent searches will appear.

Notice also you can clear your search history using this method.

recently used files mac

Managing items on your computer is an arduous task at times, but using some of the above features and hacks can often save you time.

Let us know of other ways you locate recently used files on your Mac.

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Mac OSX Tips & Issues
Mac OSX Tips & Issues
253 Members
Mac Troubleshooting
Mac Troubleshooting
107 Members
Apple Hardware Discussion
Apple Hardware Discussion
87 Members
Affiliate Disclamer

This article may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
New comment

Please login to avoid entering captcha

Log In