OS X: Opening Recent Files in the Finder

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In lots of places around your Mac, holding down the Command key while you're clicking on an item will give you info about where it lives rather than opening it. For example, I've mentioned before that Command-clicking a Spotlight result will open it in the Finder.** I also often Command-click a program's icon in my Dock as a quick shortcut to get to my Applications folder. And similarly, Jeff Gamet pointed out that you can Command-click a Finder window's title to get a hierarchical view of where you are in your file system.

One of this feature's most useful implementations, though, is for the things you've accessed recently. If you click on the Apple Menu in the upper-left corner of your screen and choose Recent Items, you've got fast access to recent applications, servers, and documents that you've used.

If you then hold down the Command key before you click on an application or a document, you'll see the menu change, and you'll be given the option to open the item in the Finder instead.

And by the way, I don't really have a text file with world domination plans, no no no. I'm just not that kind of person, you see.

It's actually a Pages file.


**If you're running OS X 10.8.2, you may find that a software bug prevents this from working. I'm hoping Apple fixes this soon, as I use that feature all of the time!

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Lee Dronick

Thanks Melissa, that is a good tip.


I also like this tip. And I feel much relieved that your plans are in a Pages file, and not a txt file. wink


Melissa, just wanted to say thanks.  I’ve been a Mac user for 10 years, and your posts consistently provide useful info.  Thx.

Melissa Holt

Thanks for reading, Lee, JonGI, and achaar! I really appreciate the kind words.

And Jon, I feel it’s important that I use Pages, too. After all, you never know when the limits of plain text will prevent you from emphasizing important details, thus screwing up everything you’ve worked so hard to put in place. I’m speaking of a figurative world-domination planner, you understand.


Great tip! Two side-notes, though: 1) You can also get the hierarchical path to the current file/folder by simply right-clicking** on the icon at the top of the Finder Window. 2) Why the hell do MS Office documents still not appear in the ‘Recent Items’ list? I don’t use MS Office apps any more than I absolutely have to (which, thank God, isn’t often), but it would be nice if MS really made their apps work with OS X the way they should, for once.

** If you haven’t yet learned to right-click, rather than ctrl-click, on your Mac, shame on you. Welcome to the 21st century, now get with the plan!

Melissa Holt

Hey MOSiX Man,

Thanks for the suggestion—and for reading my articles!

Office documents *do* show up in Recent Items, at least for me, but here’s the weird part: If I start and save a new Office document, it won’t show up in Recent Items until I close the file and reopen it. Weird.

If yours aren’t showing up at all, maybe you should try deleting ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.recentitems.plist. Afterward, restart your machine (or log out and log in again). This’ll clear out your Recent Items list, of course, but it might fix the problem.

Hope that helps!


“I don’t really have a text file with world domination plans, no no no. I’m just not that kind of person, you see. It’s actually a Pages file.”

Ba-da-dum…chh! smile

I know this article is about the Finder, but since heirarchal (is that Urkel’s German cousin?) menus were part of the discussion: Command-clicking on a window’s title works in all applications, in addition to the Finder. That’s a quick and dirty way to get back to a folder that - for example - maybe you don’t have open in the Finder, but has other project files you need to get at that aren’t currently open.

Paul Goodwin

I too have noticed that recent items get stale with MS Office docs. And MOSiX man, I too use the right click folder icon to get the path a lot.

Melissa thanks, I tried the command click in recent items once a long time ago, and forgot about being able to do that. Thanks for the mind jog. I use the iPad so much now, I’m starting to forget what I used to know on my iMac.

Melissa Holt

Good tip, xmattingly! Thanks.

You’re welcome, Paul! I find quite often that I try to do things on my Mac that I can do on my iPhone (like swiping to refresh my e-mail). What’s worse are the times when I attempt to, say, tap on a word to get its definition. When I’m reading a magazine.

It’s happened more often than I like to admit.


Paul Goodwin

Yes Melissa. I’m an inbetweener now too. And I can’t type on my Mac keyboard as well any more. For sure the iPad is a better reader. I’m on the iPad about 90% of the time now.

I also find myself accidentally doing something with my fingers on the mouse that will do something unexpected in Safari - like an accidental two finger spread the page move, and I can never figure out how to pinch it back to normal size.

Paul Goodwin

I guess I should get a trackpad for the iMac


Melissa, thanks for another great tip!  I love the way your articles start with a simple, perhaps fairly well-known tip but you spice it up with several follow-up tips that are usually not-so-well-known and probably more handy than the initial tip.  In this case the headline doesn’t sound that exciting (“Just go to the Apple menu and choose recent items, duh”) but then you hit us with all the Cmd key shortcuts to the Finder, something I didn’t know about but have a use for almost daily. 

Also it’s nice (or frightening, depending on your PoV) to see that by using Pages for your world domination plans - and presumably syncing the document in iCloud - you’ve given yourself the flexibility to launch your plans from anywhere you go, even if all you have is an iPhone.  Probably not the subject matter that Apple would want to build an advertising campaign around, but very forward-thinking Melissa!

Melissa Holt

Hey Paul,

I personally love the Magic Trackpad—it does a nice job of bridging the gap between iOS and OS X, in my opinion. But keep the receipt in case you don’t like it. wink

Thanks for that, Substance! If you saw the way I actually write my articles (“Hmmm, I should write about this. Oh, and that goes along with it too! And this!! And that!! Whee!!!!”), you’d probably get a headache. Just like I assume my editor does.

And I’ve already revealed too much about my plans, but your support is noted. Come M-Day™, your name will be on a special list. For what?

I don’t know yet. But something.


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