Most of the time I spend in Finder dialogs is trying to find the file or folder I accessed a few minutes ago.


  • I use an image editing program to create a funny picture. Then I go to a website to upload the picture. Now I have to find it all over again in the upload dialog.

  • I'm making a game. Say first I create a sound effect to use in the game and save it to the project folder. Next I create a sprite in an image editing program. When I save it, I want to save it in the same folder. Now I have to find the folder again.

  • I download a zip file. After it has downloaded I want to go to the folder to which it was downloaded to extract it.

In other words, this happens all the time.

Is there any way to access recent files or folders in Finder or in file dialogs?

  • You can add a Smart Folder, defined to meet your wants, to the Sidebar in Finder, which is then also available in open or save dialog boxes. Sep 13, 2016 at 5:17

4 Answers 4


The option offered by techraf is one way to go, but I do think there is a built-in OS X option available that will meet your needs (or most of them).

In every OS X 'Open' dialogue box or 'Save as' dialogue box you have a drop-down menu which you can click on to select other locations. Clicking on this will also list your recent places and allows you to open from or save to these as needed.

Depending on your setup, you may need to click on the arrow button appearing next to the field (on the right) to make the drop-down visible.

As an aside (and you're probably aware of this - but for the benefit of others) on a related note you can access recent applications and documents under Apple Menu > Recent Items.

You can also increase/decrease the number of recent items listed here by accessing System Preferences > Appearance on older systems or System Preferences > General on newer ones.

Hope this helps.


Okay, here are some images showing an example of how to view recent places in Mac OS X Save As dialogue boxes and Open dialogue boxes. These examples are based on OS X El Capitan, but other versions also work in a similar fashion.

enter image description here

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Please note:

  1. Various applications may display these dialogue boxes differently, but all offer the ability to view recent places
  2. In my images, Desktop is shown in the Where drop-down menu. However, this may be different depending on your circumstances
  3. If you can't seem to see a list of recent places, make sure if there is an arrow next to the Save As field that it faces down (see below)

enter image description here

Hope this helps!

  • I don't seem to have "recent items" in save as dialog, but your tip for "recent items" in Apple Menu was useful and I was unaware of it.
    – Bemmu
    Sep 13, 2016 at 21:30
  • What version of OS X are you running? When I get a chance I will try to post images to show you how to access the recent items in the open and save dialogue boxes.
    – Monomeeth
    Sep 13, 2016 at 22:12
  • I am running El Capitan
    – Bemmu
    Sep 15, 2016 at 2:34
  • 1
    Just updated my answer with some descriptive images that will hopefully help you and others.
    – Monomeeth
    Sep 15, 2016 at 3:30

Yes, there is a way, although a commercial one. It will cost you $34.95 and AFAIK there are no competitive solutions.

The Default Folder X program wraps the dialog boxes with it's own frame allowing you to navigate to: a recent file or folder, a folder you configured as favourite, a folder that you used recently with a particular application.

So it fits into all of your three scenarios. Additionally you can open recent and favourite places in Finder by using the icon in the menu bar.

  • +1 - this is one of my few indispensable solutions on Mac, along with DragThing, & has been for as long as I can recall.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 13, 2016 at 6:17

I created an intelligent folder "current folders" which shows all folders that are opened within the last day and with type equals folder.
Then I added this to the folder side bar.


Here is another way to do it. You can install fswatch. And then run a script that will watch for file changes in a specific directory, and then create a symbolic link (or symlink) in the "recent" folder, which you can add as an often used folder in finder.

fswatch /Users/<USERNAME>/somedirectory | xargs -I {} sh -c "ln -s '{}' /Users/<USERNAME>/recent/"

You would need to run this on startup or in the background.

The nice thing about making a symlink is that it doesn't copy the actual file - it just makes a pointer back to the one that you recently modified.

This solution also works on Linux. If you have brew installed on Mac, you can use that to install fswatch.

brew install fswatch

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