How to Add a Recent Items Folder to Your Mac's Dock


In a previous how-to, we explained how to add a special stack to your Mac's Dock that enables quick access to recently opened or favorite items.

This unique stack can be configured to show your most recently opened apps, documents, or servers, but what you can't do is make it show all your recent items, regardless of kind.

One solution is to add a recently opened items folder to your Dock instead. The following steps guide you through the process of creating one using Finder's smart folder feature.

  1. Open a Finder window and select File -> New Smart Folder in the menu bar. Alternatively, right-click (or Ctrl-click) the Finder icon in your Dock and select New Smart Folder.

  2. In the Finder window that opens, make sure the search header is selected as This Mac, then click the plus icon in the upper right of the viewing area.

  3. Select Last opened date in the first search criteria dropdown.
  4. Select within last in the second dropdown.
  5. In the third and final dropdown, select how far back you'd like the folder to show recently opened items for. Your options are days, weeks, months, and years.
  6. In the input field to the left of your timescale selection, specify the number of days/weeks/months/years of recently opened files to show.

  7. To restrict your recent items folder to a certain kind of file – images, for example – click the plus button to add another row, then select a kind from the second dropdown. (Depending on the kind you select, you may be offered an additional dropdown to further limit the criteria.)

  8. Now, hold down the Option key. Note how the plus icon at the end of the row changes to an ellipsis. Click this, and you'll be able to add search parameters that exclude certain items like applications and folders from your recents list.

  9. In the second row dropdown, select None of the following are true.
  10. In the third row, first dropdown, select Kind.
  11. In the third row, second dropdown, select the type of item you wish to exclude.

  12. If you want to add more exclusion criteria, hold the Option key and click the ellipsis icon in the first row. When you're done, click Save in the upper right of the viewing area.

  13. In the save dialog that appears, give your smart folder a name, and select your Desktop as the location for your folder. You can also opt to include the folder in Finder's sidebar by checking the box next to Add to Sidebar.

  14. Click Save.
  15. Switch to your Desktop and drag and drop your new smart folder to the right of the the Dock, which will automatically move any existing icons behind the divider to make space for it. (If you like, you can delete the same folder on your Desktop once it's safely docked.)

  16. Finally, right-click (or Ctrl-click) the docked smart folder and select Folder in the contextual menu.

The last step gives your recently opened items folder a distinctive icon in the Dock.

Note that the same contextual menu also provides view and sort options to further customize the folder's behavior.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
24 months ago
Great tip! I'm loving this series.

* In the Finder window that opens, click the plus icon in the upper right of the viewing area.

In this screenshot, wouldn't one want to search "This Mac" instead of just the Desktop? Otherwise it's going to be a pretty narrow set of results....

* In the save dialog that appears, give your smart folder a name, and select your Desktop as the location for your folder. You can also opt to include the folder in Finder's sidebar by checking the box next to Add to Sidebar.

You don't have to leave it on your Desktop if you don't want to. I chose to save the Smart Folder to my Documents folder where it's out of the way.

Oh, and if anybody's interested, you can edit the Saved Search by opening it in Finder and selecting "Show Search Criteria" from the little gear menu.

It's also worthwhile while doing the search criteria to add additional filters after you specify the date one. Lots of useful options there like restricting your Kind to Documents to filter out apps. You can stack up these search criteria as you see fit and see the results in real-time as you tweak. Worth futzing with, and you can always create separate smart searches for specific things, like "PDFs from the last 30 days with the name XXXXX" or whatever.

Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
24 months ago

Or, as he said “(If you like, you can delete the same folder on your Desktop once it's safely docked.)”

You're right, I missed that part. It is handy to keep that .savedsearch file around if you want to edit it, though, and I think you need to keep it somewhere if you want that sidebar shortcut to exist. Interestingly the Dock item is totally independent once you add it, and editing the .savedsearch file has no effect on the dock item.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
24 months ago
Did Apple drop the Finder setting for recent documents in Mojave? Tinker tool used to be able to toggle this without a smart folder.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
24 months ago

In this screenshot, wouldn't one want to search "This Mac" instead of just the Desktop? Otherwise it's going to be a pretty narrow set of results....

Thanks, ignatius, for pointing this out. I'll replace the image and add another step.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Photographer Austin Mann Tests the iPhone 12 Pro's Camera

Wednesday October 21, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
Travel photographer Austin Mann usually performs an in-depth review of new iPhone models to test their camera performance in real-world scenarios. To test Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro, Mann traveled to Glacier National Park, Montana. Mann focused on some of the biggest camera upgrades with the iPhone 12 Pro, including the upgraded Wide lens, Ultra Wide Night mode, and LiDAR autofocus, across a...

iPhone 12 Pro Max Has Smaller 3,687 mAh Battery According to Regulatory Filing

Tuesday October 20, 2020 8:48 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with a 3,687 mAh battery, which is around 7% less capacity than the 3,969 mAh battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, according to a regulatory filing published by TENAA, the Chinese equivalent of the FCC. The regulatory filing, spotted by MacRumors, also lists the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 6GB of RAM as seen in benchmark results last week. Apple has filed ...

5G Drains iPhone 12 Battery 20% Faster Than 4G in Benchmark

Wednesday October 21, 2020 3:17 am PDT by
After the first reviews for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro emerged yesterday, a new report by Tom's Guide reveals the extent of battery life reductions when using 5G. The report outlines a test wherein the iPhone surfs the web continuously at 150 nits of screen brightness, launching a new site every 30 seconds until the battery drains. Interestingly, the test was run on an iPhone 12 and...

Teardown Video Confirms iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Use Same 2,815mAh Battery

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:47 am PDT by
With the iPhone 12 launching on Friday and in just a few hours to Australia and New Zealand, hands-on videos, teardowns, reviews, and other iPhone-related content has been coming out. A new teardown video delves into both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro, confirming battery life for both models and giving us a closer look at their internals. The video from Io Technology is in Chinese, but ...

French iPhone Boxes Come Packed in an Outer Box With Separate EarPods

Wednesday October 21, 2020 6:52 am PDT by
After the news that France would be the only territory to continue to include EarPods with the iPhone, it seems that Apple is not packing the earbuds within the iPhone's box (via iGeneration). Screenshot from TheiCollection's review video The French iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro does not have a different retail box to accommodate EarPods, meaning that all iPhone boxes are consistent...

Some Defective Apple iPhone 12 Cases Shipping Without Speaker Holes

Wednesday October 21, 2020 12:54 pm PDT by
At least two customers who have purchased iPhone 12 cases have received defective cases that do not have speaker holes, which obscures the sound. Photo by Reddit user zarnold16 There have been two separate threads on Reddit from iPhone 12 customers who purchased a case and received one without speaker holes. One customer was told by an Apple advisor that the case wasn't meant to have...

Watch: New iPad Air Unboxing Videos and First Impressions

Wednesday October 21, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's embargo has lifted on reviews for the new iPad Air ahead of its launch on Friday. In addition to our more detailed review roundup, we've shared a handful of unboxing videos and first impressions of the device below. The new iPad Air via Karl Conrad The new iPad Air features a larger 10.9-inch edge-to-edge display, a faster A14 Bionic chip, and a USB-C port instead of Lightning. It is...

Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:13 am PDT by
Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple). The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an...