Finder has a menu bar item called Go where you can access recent folders from. It’s useful if you want to quickly jump to a folder you’ve been accessing frequently but don’t want to navigate to it or create shortcuts that you’ll later have to clean up. Unfortunately, Recent Folders isn’t an item on the sidebar in Finder. If you’d find it useful to add Recent Folders to the Finder sidebar, you can use a little trick with Smart Folders to get the job done.
Since this trick uses Smart Folders, and the feature was introduced in Mojave, it goes without saying that if you’re on an older version of macOS, you won’t be able to use this trick.
Add Recent Folders to Finder sidebar
Open Finder, and select your home folder from the sidebar. On the menu bar, go to File>New Smart Folder.
This will open the New Smart Folder window with your home folder pre-selected as the location to search. Click the little plus button at the top right. It will add the first condition for filtering the items that are included in the smart folder. Leave the first option set to ‘Kind’, but in the second dropdown, select ‘Folder’.
Click the plus button again, to add another condition. Set it to ‘Last opened date’, and in the second dropdown, select how recent a folder should be included in your ‘Recent Folders’ smart folder.
If you want, you can add additional rules to also include date modified, and date created. Once you’re done, click the Save button at the top right. Name the smart folder ‘Recent Folders’, and make sure the ‘Add to sidebar’ option is selected. Click Save and the smart folder will be added to the Finder sidebar. When you click it, it will show you all folders that you recently accessed.
You will notice that there’s a Recents option in the sidebar as well. It’s only for files and while it may be useful, it can get cluttered if you have to work with lots and lots of files. This is why the recent folders are a better way to navigate and access files.
If you need to change the criteria for what is included in the folder, you can right-click it in the sidebar and select the ‘Show search criteria’ option from the context menu. It will take you back to the window you created the smart folder in. You can make all the edits you want and then save them.