How to get more items into the Recent Items menu

The Recent Items item, in the Apple menu, can save you a lot of time– if the thing you’re looking for is in the Recent Items list. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the app or document you want has fallen off the list, so going to the Recent Items menu turns out to be wasted time. We can change that.

Recent Items default settings

By default, the Recent Items menu shows the last ten apps you’ve opened, the last ten documents you’ve opened, and the last ten servers or disks you’ve connected to. See below.

Recent Items menu, showing ten apps, ten documents, and (up to) ten servers
Recent Items menu, showing ten apps, ten documents, and (up to) ten servers

If you use a lot of apps, and a lot of documents, the item you’re looking for might not be in the list. Here, “a lot” translates to “more than ten.”

You’re going to need a bigger list.

Fortunately, this is easily controlled via the General pane in System Preferences. Here’s the default setting for Recent Items:

Recent Items, default settings

Changing the number of items

Change the number of Recent Items to something higher than ten and you’ll have a better chance of finding what you’re looking for in the Recent Items menu. In the case below, I’ve tripled my chances, because I changed the number of Recent Items from ten to thirty.

Recent Items in the General preference pane, changed to remember 30 items in each category
Recent Items, changed to remember 30 items in each category

Note: when you increase the number of Recent Items, you might expect to see immediate results. You won’t. The Recent Items menu will still show whatever the number was, before you changed it. But in time, as you use your Mac, the number of items in the Recent Items menu will grow, up to the limit you set in the General preference pane. When you decrease the number of Recent Items you do see an immediate result.

Here’s my Recent Items menu, with 30 apps and 30 documents (there’s not enough room on my screen to show a menu that long so the 30 documents don’t all show here, and the servers don’t show at all):

Recent Items menu, showing 30 apps, 30 documents, and (up to) 30 servers
Recent Items menu, showing 30 apps, 30 documents, and (up to) 30 servers

My recommendation

Try increasing the number of Recent Items and see if it helps you. It sure helps me!


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