OS X Question: Seeing the File I Just Modified

I’m a relatively recent convert to the Cult of Apple after a lifetime of Windows usage. I’ve had a nagging question which I hope one of my dear veteran OS X readers can answer.

Here’s the use case: I make a site map in OmniGraffle, and export it as a PDF to send to a client. I open up a Finder window, and I have to navigate through five or six levels of directories to locate the attachment, which I then drag and drop into an email message.

I spend a lot of time just locating files in Finder after I’ve been working with them in a particular app. How can I speed up this process?

I’m imagining a constantly-updating search in a Finder window or separate application that shows me the most recently modified files under Documents.

Alternately, it’d be nice if OmniGraffle (and Pages and Numbers and so forth) had ‘Reveal this file in Finder’ functionality (thought that probably wouldn’t help with my exported PDF case above). Maybe they do?

I never perceived this problem on Windows, so either my usage patterns have changed, or I’ve forgotten about some useful bit of Windows functionality.


  1. I’m pretty sure you can create a smart folder that lives over in the left pane of Finder for “Files Modified in Last 24 Hours.” I’ve never had the need to do it myself and I’m at work on a PC, so I’ll let someone else fill in the details.

    Or, use Spotlight. Hold down the Apple key and hit space, type the file name in, watch the file name pop up. I think CMD-click (or right click?) will open it in a Finder but, again, someone else will have to verify that one.

    Hope that helps get you started. . .

  2. Augie: Thanks for that, the first one sounds promising. I’d prefer ‘in the last hour’, but this is headed in the right direciton.

    As for the search functionality (which I refuse to call ‘Spotlight’, because it’s just search, and doesn’t deserve its own brand), I find that it returns too many results. If I enter ‘site map’ on my machine, I get 203 results. Plus I have several files with similar of the same name, and that pop-up search doesn’t show folder paths (at least not by default).

  3. Hmm…not super keen on the filtering in the Smart Folder (I can’t filter out folders, for example), but that’s definitely a solid 8/10.

  4. Darren,

    Type the filename into spotlight (the search box top right) if you know. Spotlight will then pop it up and you can opent the window its in.

    Spotlight indexes in realtime for new files so the files are always there.

    Even having a partial name works, I just tried it.

  5. Hey Darren,
    Sounds to me like you really should install Quicksilver (http://docs.blacktree.com/what_is_quicksilver).
    Like spotlight it indexes your filesystem but it is more far more powerful.
    Useage is trivial
    – CTRL-Space (customizable) to launch the Quicksilver biezel
    – type part of the filename (or application or email or contact name or album name or…..)
    – hit and it’ll give you a default action (customizable) that relate to the resource
    – hit the right arrow and it’ll give you other actions that apply to the resource e.g. Open With, Reveal, Email To, Play….

    (I’ve actually re-mapped spotlight to CTRL-Space and mapped Quicksilver to Apple-Space, easier to hit.

    If invest a little effort in learning what Quicksilver can do you’ll find that you will end up rarely using the Finder (or Dock). You’ll also end up using the mousepad a lot less.

  6. Leopard now has default searches for “Today,” “Yesterday” and one or two others in the sidebar of the Finder.

    You could also make a smart folder that pulls up all PDF’s. Hope these ideas help!

  7. Also, if you Cmd-Click a document or folder name in the title bar of a window, it’ll show the Finder path where the file is saved and let you go straight to that location. I can’t say for sure that it works for OmniGraffe, but I think it’s a system-wide tool and it definitely works across all the Adobe and MSOffice applications.

  8. Also worthwhile noting is that Spotlight in Leopard has been updated – it returns a much more refined set of search results than the Tiger version of Spotlight did (I refuse to call it Search because that could refer just as easily to the locate and find command line utilities, and when I say Spotlight, you know I mean the little magnifying glass in the corner)


  9. Don’t use Spotlight. It’ll take too long, and you shouldn’t have to remember and type in a filename. What is this, DOS?

    Default Folder will remember recently-used files from all applications.

    It isn’t applicable to the scenario you described, but you can drag the thumbnail in the title bar of a saved file anywhere you can drag that file. Hence if you e.g. save a PDF and want to attach it to an E-mail, you can just drag the thumnbail onto your mail application or into its window or whatever.

  10. As a couple other folks have mentioned, if you’re using Leopard you’ll want to take advantage of the smart folders. You can also build your own, which you can then further modify to things like “created this week or modified today and is PDF”.

    If you’re not using Leopard you can still create smart folders, it’s just that they’re highlighted to the user a bit more obviously in Leopard.

    If you prefer using a search to find files, as others have also mentioned, Quicksilver when integrated with Spotlight, is genius. That’s a program that takes some time to really learn and understand, but once you do it saves countless hours. I’m one of those in the “Quicksilver is the greatest app ever” camp, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

    If you used Google Desktop in Windows, there is an OS X version. I’m not 100% sure if it’s updated for Leopard, as I don’t use it anymore. But I found it an easy way to help lower the learning curve when I switched from Windows to OS X (I used Google Desktop for windows for years). Since I’ve discovered (some of) the full capability of Quicksilver, Google Desktop has been used less and less…

    And finally, a lot of folks swear by Path Finder, a file manager alternative to Finder. I can see why people adore it, but I just don’t need it.. (it’s not free).

  11. I have a rather simple suggestion. In most document windows, at the top beside the title is a little icon of your document. That icon is clickable and draggable — click and drag that into your mail message once the document is saved.

    I do really love Default Folder and QuickSilver, not as solutions to this particular problem, but as general productivity enhancers.


  12. Thanks for all the recommendations. I think a combination of Augie and Travis’s suggestions will suit my needs.

    I do have to say that I agree with Joe: “you shouldn’t have to remember and type in a filename. What is this, DOS?”

  13. worse comes to worse, you can always get really geeky and do symlinks to your common folders. I mean, there’s a preference for where to save right? Just do an:

    ln -s /path/to/dest /path/to/source

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