Getting quick access to recent items is something every Mac user wants as it allows them to instantly get back to previously unfinished work. You may want to keep reading the PDF file someone sent you yesterday, or maybe you want to finish the story you left unfinished last night.

Unless you keep all these files on your desktop, you can’t really access them with just a few clicks. Even if you decide to store these files on the desktop, there is a limited amount of space beyond which you cannot go.

Recent apps in the Dock

If you are troubled by these limitations, there is a hidden feature in your Mac’s Dock that will help you. This feature allows you to add frequently accessed items to the Dock for quick access.

Add the stack of recent items to the Dock

There are already a number of apps in your Mac’s Dock. If you move your cursor to the bottom of the screen, you’ll reveal the Dock with everything in it.

The Dock isn’t limited to what it shows by default. One of its hidden features is the ability to add your own custom items to the list. This way you can add a custom stack to the Dock that shows recent items on your Mac.

Once the stack is added, simply click on it to view recent files. Here’s how you do it using the 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: defaults write persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = {"list type" = 1;  }; "tile type" = "recent-tile";} '&& \ killall Dock

A new stack will be added to the Dock and you can click on it to open it.

By default, the stack will show recently accessed applications 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

If recent apps aren’t what you’re looking for and you prefer quick access to your recent documents, for example, 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 to get the stack to show the chosen items in the list.

Find the newly added stack in the Dock, right-click the stack and choose one of the options shown at the top of the menu. These options include Recent applications, recent documents, recent servers, recent volumesAnd Recent items.

Context menu on the new stack in the Dock

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

Recent Documents in the Dock

You can play with other options as well until it meets your needs.

Add additional custom stacks to the Dock

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

Here’s how to add it:

turn on the terminal app and run the following command inside 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 the stack and choose the file types you want to appear.

You can run the above command as many times as you want. It will add a stack every time. You can then customize what each of these stacks show in your Mac’s Dock.

Add the custom recent item stack to the Dock

If you’ve noticed, the default stack only allows you to access certain recent file types. If you want more, there is no option in the context menu to do that. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add custom recent items to the Dock.

The Mac has another useful feature called Smart Folders. These are actually saved searches that help you quickly find whatever file and type of file you’re looking for on your Mac. Once you’ve created a Smart Folder, you can actually add 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. Perhaps a folder that shows recently opened PDF files on your Mac. Your screen should look like this.

New Smart Folder window

Click on Saveenter a name for your Smart folder and save the folder to your desktop.

Save as in Smart folder

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

The fan layout may not be suitable for PDF files. Then right-click the stack in the Dock and select Grill. It should look a lot better now.

Stacked context menu with Grid selected

Show more recent items in the Dock

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

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

To select General in the following screen. You will then 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.

Setting recent items in General

You can show up to 50 items in a docked stack.

Delete the pile of recent items from the Dock

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

Find the stack you want to remove, right-click the stack and select Remove from Dock.

Remove from Stacked Dock menu

The stack will no longer appear in the Dock.

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