How to Access Recent Items from the MacOS Bar

Quick access to recent items is something every Mac user wants as it instantly allows them to go back to their previous unfinished work. You might want to continue reading the PDF someone sent you yesterday, or maybe you want to finish the story you left off last night.

Unless you keep all these files on your desktop, you can’t really access them with a few clicks. Even if you decide to store these files on your desktop, you cannot use a limited amount of space.

If you’re having trouble with these limitations, there’s a hidden feature in your Mac’s Dock that will help you. This feature helps add frequently accessed items to the Dock so you can access them quickly.

Add recent items to the Dock

There are already a number of apps that reside in your Mac’s Dock. If you bring the pointer to the bottom of the screen, you will reveal the Dock with everything in it.

The Dock does not limit what it shows by default. One of its hidden features is the ability to add your custom items to the list. This way, you can add a custom tile to the Dock that shows recent items on your Mac.

Once a tile is added, you can simply click on it to display your recent files. Here’s how you do it using Terminal:

Launch the Terminal app on your Mac. Type in the following command into the Terminal and hit Enter.

defaults write persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = {"list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile";}' && \killall Dock
Terminal window with command: default writes persistent-others -array-add '{ "slice data" = {"list type" = 1;  }; "brick type" = "recent bricks";} '&& \ killall Dock

A new tile will be added to the Dock, and you can click the tile to open it.

By default, the tile shows recently accessed apps on your Mac. You can keep it if you want or you can customize it to show something else instead.

Replace recent apps with other file types

For example, if recent apps isn’t what you’re looking for and you want quick access to your recent documents, you can change the stack in the Dock to show those items accordingly. .

Customizing the newly added stack is as easy as clicking on it and choosing an option. You don’t even need to run any commands this time for the stack to show the items you selected in the list.

Find the newly added tile in the Dock, right-click on the tile, and select any of the options shown at the top of the menu. These options include Recent Apps, Recent Documents, Recent Servers, Recent Episodesand Recent items.

Right click menu on new stack in Dock

Depending on what you choose, the stack will display your items accordingly.

Recent Documents in Dock

You can also try with other options until it meets your needs.

Add additional custom stacks to the Dock

If you need access to recent items of various types, one stack will not be enough for you. You’ll need to add additional stacks, each with their own file type, to your Mac’s Dock.

Here’s how you add it:

Shoot up End application and run the following command in it.

defaults write persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = {"list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile";}' && \killall Dock

When a new stack appears in the Dock, right-click on the tile and select the file type you want it to display.

You can run the above command as many times as you like. It will add one stack each time. You can then customize what each of these stacks shows up in your Mac’s Dock.

Add custom recent items stacked to the Dock

If you notice, the default stack only allows you to access some recent file types. If you want more than that, there’s no option in the context menu to do that. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add recently customized items to your Dock.

Mac has another useful feature called Smart Folders. These are actually saved searches that help you quickly find whatever file and file type you’re looking for on your Mac. Once you’ve created a Smart Folder, you can actually pin it to the Dock and access it from there.

This gives you more options and control over what you can access from the Dock. Here’s how you do it:

Create a custom Smart Folder of your choice on your Mac. Maybe a folder showing recently opened PDFs on your Mac. Your screen will look like the following.

New Smart Folder Window

Click SaveEnter a name for your Smart Folder and save the folder on your desktop.

The Save As window in Smart Folders

When you see the folder on your desktop, drag and drop it to the Dock. Then it will sit there.

The Fan Layout may not be suitable for PDF files. So right click on the stack in the Dock and select Net. Now it will look much better.

Right click menu in stack with Grid selected

Show more recent items in the Dock

By default, a tile will only show up to 10 recent items in the list. If you need more than that, you need to change a value on your Mac as shown below.

Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner and select System Preferences.

Option Shared on the following screen. Then you will find an option that says Recent items. Use the drop-down menu next to the option to choose how many items you want in the stack list.

Recent items settings in General

You can display up to 50 items in a pinned dock in the Dock.

Remove the recent items stack from the Dock

If you no longer need the recent items stack, you can clear it by clicking an option in the Dock.

Find the stack you want to delete, right click on it and select Remove from Dock.

Remove from Dock menu in stack

Stacks will no longer appear in your Dock.

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