If you open and close many files throughout the course of a day, at some point you may forget what you named a file or even which program you used to create or open a file. Recent Menu from developer Tim Schroeder addresses this annoyance with a menu item app.
Most programs include an Open Recent command in the File menu, which allows you to easily locate a file on which you worked in the past few days. The number of items in a recent list depends on how many files you opened and how you set the program's preferences. Most probably each of your apps has a different number of recently opened files that it shows, but Recent Menu shows you all the files and folders you accessed, depending on how you set it up.
Recent Menu Set Up
When you first install Recent Menu, you must grant access to your file system to launch Recent Menu at startup. Instead of a simple dialog to accomplish that, the program includes a File System Access button.
The second item you choose is a keyboard shortcut to use with the app. Unfortunately Recent Menu does not offer any suggestions and the first few I tried yielded a message that the shortcut is already in use by a system-wide shortcut. You can see the list of OS X keyboard shortcuts in use by the system in Apple's "OS X keyboard shortcuts" support doc. I found that Command-F13 is unused, so that's the Hotkey I chose.
Recent Menu appears in your Finder menu and chronologically lists the files and folders you opened recently. According to the developer, Tim Schroeder, this is based on the premise that "files and folders you have recently used are likely to be used again soon."
Upon first install of Recent Menu I was surprised to see that every app I'd launched the day before appeared in the menu. I really did not want to see email I'd marked as SPAM show up in my menu, so I read the Help file to see what kinds of customizations I could apply.
How It Works
Spotlight provides the data that Recent Menu uses. The Spotlight data is linked to Recent Menu according to your filter settings and presets in the recently accessed item list.
You decide the length of time in hours that Recent Menu monitors file and folder access to display on the menu in the preferences Search tab. You can also choose whether to show only user and application folders or all local folders. You cannot keep track of items stored in a cloud-based storage or accesses over a network though.
In the Filter Preferences tab, you tell Recent Menu which types of files to display and in what order, although within the type list, items are chronological. You add or delete filters using the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons. It looks simple enough, if you choose Filename as the search criteria, but I was stumped when I wanted to list only TIF or PSD (Photoshop) image files. I needed to choose UTI in the Search for box. UTI is specified instead of file type, because that is what Spotlight uses to categorize your documents.
The UTI (Uniform Type Identifier) is an Apple specific text string that identifies an item type, which was implemented in Mac OS X 10.4. A list of system UTIs exists in Apple's Developer Library, but why should I have to root around the developer library to enable a simple search key? It worked fine, but I just found this option more complex than I want in a supposedly simple menu item.
Generally, I do not access the same files over and over, but I do open the same folders daily. I park them in my Dock for easy access. This does make my Dock crowded though. Recent Menu alleviates Dock congestion because it can list folders in its menu. The program falls short though if you do not set enough items to display in the list. You can choose up to 30 items to display in each category. Also, it does not list items opened from within a program. It only shows files that you opened through the Finder.
You can also hover your mouse over an item in Recent Menu's list and a tool tip appears that tells you the path to the file. This is a handy feature.
Do You Need Recent Menu?
The one option I need did not exist, which makes Recent Menu less useful to me. I was hoping Recent Menu would let me park items I use sporadically in the bottom of the menu, but that is not the way it is designed. For example, I want to park my photo watermark template and keep it there, because I use it frequently, but not daily.
So, while Recent Menu did not solve my problem, you may find it useful for your work. It works well in OS X 10.8.x and does what it is supposed to do, although a bit complex to set up, if you want specific file types listed. I tested Recent Menu version 1.2.2, which requires OS X 10.7.4 (Lion) and up. It is free on the App store, so give it a try and see if it helps speed up your workflow.