Mac OS X’s Apple menu provides useful hierarchical lists of recently used applications, documents, and servers (the number of each determined by your settings in the Appearance pane of System Preferences). Similarly, the File menu of many programs includes an Open Recent submenu, letting you quickly open documents you recently used in the application. But in my experience, the typical Mac user doesn’t take advantage of these features—most likely because these menus are tucked away, effectively out of sight.
Ironic Software’s Fresh aims to make recent documents and folders more accessible and to let you do more with them. Switch to Fresh at any time—by clicking its Dock icon, using OS X’s Command+Tab application switcher, or pressing a keyboard shortcut you define—and two large, green bars, which Fresh calls zones, appear on the screen. The vibrant-green zone, on top, is called the Fresh Files zone and shows all new and recently used items: documents you’ve just edited, files you’ve just downloaded, folders you’ve just created—if OS X’s Spotlight index thinks a file is new or newly modified, it appears in Fresh, newer items to the left. (There’s also a setting to include items that have been recently accessed or opened.)
Fresh displays a large version of each item’s Finder icon, along with the item’s name and its modification date and time. To open an item, you simply double-click it. But unlike with OS X’s built-in Recent Items feature, Fresh lets you perform other actions, as well. For starters, if you hold the cursor over an item’s name in Fresh, the program will display the full path to that item. And you can drag an item from the Fresh Files zone much as you might drag it in the Finder—for example, to another folder to move it, to another volume to copy it, or to an e-mail message to send it as an attachment.
Right-click (or Control-click) on an item in Fresh and the resulting menu lets you choose from a number of other options: open the item in a different program than its default; rename the item; quickly switch to any folder in the path to the item; reveal the item in the Finder; get more information about the item (using the Finder’s Get Info window); or move the item to the Trash.
There are also a number of Fresh-specific actions you can perform using the same menu. Especially useful are commands to never show the selected item in Fresh, or to never show items in a particular folder in the current item’s path. When you first start using Fresh, you’ll find yourself using these options quite a bit, as by default Fresh displays your e-mail database, music files you play in iTunes, and other frequently used, but behind-the-scenes items. For example, the first time an MP3 file showed up in Fresh, I right-clicked it and choose Never Show Items In -> iTunes Music to prevent other iTunes-managed audio files from appearing in the future. (Fresh’s Preferences window also lets you block specific files and paths, as well as files with particular file extensions.)
Fresh also lets you add and edit file tags, an unofficial addition to OS X’s file metadata. You can use this feature to assign one or more keywords to an item, and then use Spotlight—both from within Fresh and in the Finder—to find all items with a particular tag.
Fresh’s other zone, the aqua-green one on the bottom, is called The Cooler, and it’s an area for you to manually place items you want to keep handy, much like the older Gem Xshelf. Drag an item—for example, a folder or a document—into The Cooler, and it stays there until you purposely remove it. You can perform the same actions on Cooler-hosted items as you can on items in the Fresh Files zone, although you can also manually reorder items in The Cooler. You can even drag a file from the Fresh Files zone to The Cooler to ensure the item is easily accessible, say, tomorrow. The Cooler adds quite a bit of utility to Fresh, making the program more than just “recent files”—I’ve been using The Cooler as an alternative to a Work In Progress folder in the Dock.
The number of items you can view in either zone depends on your screen size, although each zone actually holds more than that number. You can access the additional items using the arrow keys.
As useful as Fresh is, there are a few options I’d like to see added. For example, I wish I could use the keyboard to chose a file and perform any action on it; sometimes you can’t use the arrow keys to select a file until you’ve first clicked somewhere within a zone, and you must use the cursor to access any of the useful options in Fresh’s contextual menu. I’d also like to be able to disable Fresh’s Dock icon, and to keep Fresh visible until you dismiss it—sometimes I want to perform multiple actions on an item, or drag multiple items out of Fresh.
Despite these quibbles, I found Fresh to be surprisingly useful. I count myself among those who rarely use OS X’s Recent Items feature, but Fresh found its way into my workflow—and it might just stay there.
Want to stay up to date with the latest Gems? Sign up for the Mac Gems newsletter for a weekly e-mail summary of Gems reviews sent directly to your Inbox.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read ouraffiliate link policyfor more details.