Today’s Files

Like nearly everyone else, I jump around a lot during the day between different projects, files, apps, trains-of-thought, etc. I know I shouldn’t and it isn’t my preference, but it’s how most days actually go.

One of the worst parts of this is when I find myself thinking “Wasn’t I working on something important before I got side-tracked? What was that?”

For years I berated myself about this and promised future-me that I would do better. And I would. For awhile. Until it happened again. And then I’d berate myself all over again. Sound familiar?

Well, I still try not to do it, but I have given up believing that it will never happen again. Because it will, and life is too short to keep lying to yourself about reality.

So I’ve started trying to keep track of what I was doing, especially if I can find a way to do it automatically and easily.

Enter the Finder

I didn’t expect to get help from the Finder, but I did. Now, I realize that there are some people who leave their active files on their Desktop, and if that works for you, great. For me, I keep all of mine in Dropbox, and I have a lot of sub-folders with a lot of files. I’ve tried other ways, and this works best for me.

But how do I find that file I was working on earlier without having to keep navigating through all those files and folders? In the Finder. More specifically, with a saved search.

Saved Searches have been around since the origin of Spotlight, as far as I remember, but I’ve never really used them all that often. I hadn’t quite forgotten about them, I just never used them. But I changed that recently and it’s been a much bigger help than I expected.

What I did was really simple. So simple that I almost didn’t bother writing it up, except that I figure if I could benefit from this but didn’t think of it before, maybe someone else will be the same way.

So here’s how I made my Saved Search.

Step 1 is easy, just go to a Finder window and press ⌘F and Finder will switch into Spotlight mode.

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Now, look at the plus sign (+) at the top right of that window. See it?

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Watch what happens when I press and hold the option key (⌥)

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See that change? It’s pretty small, but it’s vital. Instead of being a plus sign, now it looks like a floating ellipses (…). Click that.

Now, look at the area in the red box:

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Usually when you are searching for things, all of the criteria are added together: I want to search for this “and” that. But in my case, I want this “or” that. Using the Option/⌥ click on the plus sign (+) gives us the “Any of the following are true” search. That’s what we want.

(Note: the first criteria “Kind is Any” is harmless, but we don’t need it, so click the minus button shown with the arrow above to get rid of it. Or don’t.)

Now, change the criteria of “Last opened date” to “today”:

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…then click the plus sign at the far right of that row.

Next add “Created Date” is “today”:2019-11-21-007.png

…then click the plus sign at the far right of that row.

Lastly, add “Last modified date” is “today” — I’m assuming you know to just click the “within last” and select “today” but if not, here’s what it looks like:

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Now you have a list of all of the files and apps that you have used today, because if you were working with a file then chances are 99.9999% that you either:

  1. opened the file,
  2. created the file, or
  3. modified the file.

Maybe even more than one of those. But that’s a good net to cast to catch just about anything and everything you’ve worked on today.

We could stop here, but let’s make one more little change.

See that header row with the name, Date Create, Kind, etc? Right click somewhere on there, such as where the arrow is pointing:

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Select “Date Modified”, “Date Created”, and “Date Last Opened” as columns that you want to see. (If you want or don’t want “Kind” you can leave it or un-check it.)

Done!

Well, almost.

You don’t want to have to do this every time you need it, so click the “Save” button at the top-right: 

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And then give it a name. Because I am vëry clëver, I called mine “Today’s Files”:

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Make sure that “Add To Sidebar” is checked and then hit “Save”.

Now, anytime that you need to re-trace your steps, just click on “Today’s Files” in your Finder’s Sidebar2019-11-21-014.png

and you can sort the columns by Date Modified/Created/Last Opened if that helps.

I realize that to some of you this is macOS 101 material, but for me it’s one of those things that I never used until I did, and then I wished that I had done it a long time ago.

I hope it comes in handy for someone else.