Mac OS X has built-in features for viewing recently opened applications, or recently opened files in applications. I open lots of files in Preview and keep some of them open for a long time, usually the ones I am most likely to open again. So I would prefer to be able to quickly view all of my recently closed (typically unmodified) files. Is this possible either system wide, or specifically in Preview?

Note: There is related program, AppsBar, which allows one to view recently closed applications, but based on the description does not seem to apply to specific files. If it makes a difference, I am running Mavericks.


3 Answers 3


It is unfortunatly impossible.

At the file system level, there are only 3 dates associated with any file or directory:

access time
creation time
modification time

The access time is modified upon opening a file. The modification time is modified upon writing the file.

None of these 3 dates is modified upon closing a file. Hence the file system doesn't provide a timestamp of the event you are interested in closing time.

For example, the access time will show you when Preview opened your file, but if you close it 2 days later, no date is changed.

This is a structural limitation at the file system level.

At the Finder level the limitation is exactly the same.

This might be changed if Apple decided to improve the ergonomy of the Finder so as to be able to open what the human behind the keyboard is working on. And this won't be a programming nightmare. A basic cache of files opened and closed (modified or not), maintened through a count of references to opened files (when ref_count == 0, file is closed) + survey the deep Spotlight harvesting (to avoid to wait it a few hours to free files) would make it.


Typically, your recently opened files match your recently closed files. You can increase the number of remembered files using:

  • System Preferences > General > Recent Items

System Preferences > General > Recent Items on OS X

In Preview.app, you can show the recently open files in three ways:

Menu Item: Open Recent

Using the menu item File (menu) > Open Recent

Dock Icon

Click on hold Preview.app's icon in the Dock to show the same recent files list. This works even if Preview is not launched.

Spaces / Mission Control

With Preview.app foremost, hold down the Control + Down Arrow keys. This will fade out the application and show the recent documents as large icons along the bottom of the display.

  • Thanks, but is there no way to isolate the recently closed files? Often for me the most recently closed file will not be among the 20 most recently opened files, so just increasing the number of recent items is not entirely ideal.
    – Kimball
    Aug 10, 2015 at 11:32
  • 1
    Sadly there appears no built-in way to isolate recently closed files; only the recently opened are available. Third party applications will struggle to provide this functionality because of sandboxing. This limits what applications can see other applications doing. Aug 10, 2015 at 11:55
  • I share the same need than Kimball: I often have many technical notes open for many days. I would appreciate the ergonomy of a Finder interface able to position me at first on these files I am working on.
    – dan
    Aug 11, 2015 at 10:48

One way to see all files you have used over the past nth days, weeks or month is to create a Smart Folder. One can use very sophisticated search terms and filters or make a few simple rules.

  • Open a Finder window
  • Select File > New Smart Folder or ++N


  • Add your criteria [File type(s), last opened or last modified, etc.]

Search Criteria

Finished folder

Now, you can keep an alias on your Desktop or Dock. This is a dynamic collection that updates constantly.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is useful to know about, but unless one can sort by last closed date, this solution seems to suffer a similar problem as Graham's answer.
    – Kimball
    Aug 10, 2015 at 12:41
  • As noted in previous comments, closing a file doesn't write to the file system. You can modify the file before closing by setting a bookmark. This action would show in a Smart Folder set to look for modified files.
    – bjbk
    Aug 10, 2015 at 15:08

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