‘Open Recent’ menus in Mac OS X: Need to be able to customize the number of recent items

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 1st, 2004 • 5:00 am

Mac OS X lets you customize the number of recent items that appear in the lists of recent applications and recent documents that appear in the “Recent Items” submenu in the Apple menu. You can change the number for each category (Applications and Documents), from “None” to “50“.

If you want “25“, however, you’re out of luck: Apple only offers a limited choice of predefined options (None, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 50). I guess they know better than you do what number of recent items you need.

What’s worse, however, is that this only applies to the “Recent Items” submenu in the Apple menu (which I rarely ever use), i.e. to the list of recent items system-wide.

It has no impact on the number of items that appears in the application-specific “Open Recent” submenu that most Mac OS X applications provide in their “File” menu. The number of items in that submenu is limited to 10, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I find this number to be highly insufficient. I often travel to the “Open Recent” submenu, only to find that the recent item that I am looking for is already beyond the scope of the list of the last 10 items — especially in applications such as Preview, where previewed print jobs created through the “Preview” button in print dialogs in other applications are also added to that list of recent items.

(Of course, Microsoft does things differently and has its own list of recent items at the bottom of its “File” menus in Word, Excel, etc. But that list is also limited to 9 items, so the problem is the same.)

Apple needs to provide at least an option to customize the number of items in the “Open Recent” submenus system-wide. And the choices should not be limited to a few predefined options. People should be able to choose any number between 0 and 100, or even more if needed (although it becomes impractical beyond a certain number, I suppose).

And Apple should also emulate Default Folder X and offer the option to sort recent items alphabetically rather than chronologically when the Option key is held down while pulling down the “Open Recent” submenu.

2 Responses to “‘Open Recent’ menus in Mac OS X: Need to be able to customize the number of recent items”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    Excellent! Thanks for the tip.

  2. Steve Nygard says:

    You can change the number of “Open Recent” items globally with “defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSRecentDocumentsLimit 20”. But, yes, it would be nice if Apple allowed you to set this in System Preferences.

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