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Sense of macOS Recents Folder

While using macOS Finder, you may have noticed a sideline list titled “Recently”. This is actually a “smart folder” in macOS that searches for files that have either been recently modified or created, and is very useful for finding documents that you have recently worked on but do not seem to find elsewhere. Today we take a look at how the Recently Folder can be used to increase the speed of searching for documents.

Where is the last folder?

To begin with, you should see News under Favorites in the Finder sidebar (see image below).

The Recent folder is available under Favorites in the Finder sidebar
The Recent folder is available under Favorites in the Finder sidebar

If you only see the word “Favorites” and nothing is listed below it, you can hover over the word and you will see the word “View” appear. Click on it and the folders listed as favorites will be displayed. Do you still not see it? Not a problem – you can go to the Finder menu under Go and select Recent, or use the Shift – Command (⌘) – F hotkey to open the folder.

A warning – some newer Mac users believe that the items in the News folder are duplicates of files found elsewhere on their Mac, so they delete these “duplicates” in a fruitless attempt to save space. NEVER delete files from the Recent folder, as they are actually files elsewhere on the Mac. Unless you really mean to get rid of a file, do not delete it from Recently!

The last folder is displayed everyone files in the home folder on your Mac and iCloud Drive, sorted by date last opened. This means that the last file you opened will be at the top of the list (or in the upper left corner if you are looking at the folder contents by the icon). In older versions of macOS and Mac OS X, the News folder was named “All my files”.

It is an appropriate name because all the files you have created or downloaded that are on your Mac or in iCloud Drive will be in this folder. Even files you have exported appear in Recent. They are located in many places on the Mac. When I look at the contents of my last folder in list view, I can click on different files and press Command (⌘) – I (Get info), and find the path to the files. They are everywhere – in different iCloud folders, in my downloads folder, in Documents, even in the Dropbox folder.

News finds all your files anywhere and displays them in reverse chronological order
News finds all your files anywhere and displays them in reverse chronological order

Therefore, I gave the warning earlier not to delete items from the Recent folder, unless you really mean to get rid of them. What you see is a list of the actual files, so deleting some of the files in News will get rid of them for good … unless you realize the error in your ways and want them back, in which case you can either use the useful Undo the item in the Finder menu (Command (⌘) – Z) or open the Recycle Bin, select the file (s), then use File> Reset (Command (⌘) – Delete) to place them in their original location.

Also in list view you will notice that the files are listed in reverse chronological order. The last file is a screenshot I took for this article today at 10:33, followed by a document from yesterday at 11:46, and so on. So as I mentioned earlier, the News folder is actually the results of a macOS search for documents of all file types everywhere, sorted in descending order of time.

How the last folder can be useful

When I work on my Mac, I’m kind of a nice freak at the end of the workday. I close all my documents and apps, just out of habit, and the next day when it’s time to get back to work, I go into the Recent folder, and these documents are listed at the top. I can double-click on one of them (or select multiple files and open them with Command (⌘) – O) and I’m back at work in seconds.

News is also useful when looking for a file that I worked on earlier. Let’s say I wrote something to a client, and two weeks later they ask me to make a change to the document. Open News and see the contents of list view, I can easily see what I wrote two weeks ago just by looking at the date.

If you’ve moved files from older Macs to your current Mac, you may have thousands and thousands of documents in the Recent folder, which means finding something in there can be a daunting task! No problem, because you can use the search field at the top right of the Recents Finder window to do a more detailed search of all the files.

For example, if I do not remember the name of a file, but know it was a PDF, I can type PDF in the search box and narrow my search to all my documents – both on Mac and iCloud Drive. – to PDF files only.

Searching the Finder usually allows you to add more criteria; for example, I can do a search in a “normal” Finder window for Excel spreadsheets that was created in 2017 and 2018. However, in the search field in Newer, you can not stack search criteria. If I only search News by type: Excel, it shows all the documents that are Excel spreadsheets, which reduces the number of items I need to search in. Since they are sorted by date last opened, I can look for dates in 2018 and usually find the documents I need.

Do you need more flexibility?

If you need more flexibility in your searches, I recommend using a “regular” (not recent) Finder folder. Now I store all my documents in iCloud – it’s easy to insure in case of a major failure on my MacBook Pro, and I can access these documents from all my devices. To do a multi-criteria search of all my documents, I can select iCloud Drive in the Finder sidebar and then start searching.

I start by looking for Excel spreadsheets by typing type: excel in the search field, then I can add a second criterion by clicking the + button. I will create this “Created Date is Before 1/1/2019” – in other words, everything created before 2019. My third criteria will be Create Date is after 1/1/2017, also added with the + button.

Use one
Use a “regular” Finder folder for more flexibility in your searches

Sure enough, it limits it to just four Excel spreadsheets (I mainly used Numbers at the time). This search can then be named and saved for future reference if necessary.

What if you do not use News?

Some people just do not like News, perhaps because they have a specific way of organizing files that are not necessarily time-related. Apple has provided an easy way to turn off the Recent folder. Open Settings in the Finder, then uncheck “News” under Favorites. The arrow in the screenshot below shows exactly how to do it.

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Uncheck “News” under Favorites in Finder Settings> Sidebar to hide the latest

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