My boyfriend and I share an iMac and I noticed that the “Recent Items” menu shows me what apps he used, what documents he edited, and more. I don’t like that. Is there a way to hide the Recent info from other users?
In the desire to make things easier to work with across sessions, MacOS has succumbed to some features that can also seem like invasions of privacy for some people. The correct answer to your situation, however, is not to necessarily change the settings on the Mac but to set up two different user accounts so that each of you has an independent world within MacOS. This means you’ll also be able to have separate settings and preferences for apps, and so much more. Apple has a good tutorial about How to Set Up User Accounts on MacOS if you want to read more.
Don’t want to set up two accounts? Okay, lots of people share a single account and do just fine, though, of course, it’s a bit less private for each. But if you and your boyfriend are okay with that setup, no worries. Turns out that you can not only tweak and change the “Recent Items” menu, but that you can also add or hide Recent Apps in the Mac Dock along the bottom of your screen too.
THE RECENT ITEMS MENU IN MACOS
To start out, let’s have a peek at the Recent Items menu on my own Mac. It’s accessible off the Apple menu:
If we were sharing my Mac you could see what documents I’ve been working on, what apps I’ve recently run, and even what file servers I’ve been working with. But what if I didn’t want you to know that so that, for example, you can’t see “birthday-present-ideas.pages” on the menu?
Before I show you how to change that, notice you can choose “Clear Menu” from the very bottom, which zeroes out each of these three categories of info, offering up a rather scrawny menu alternative:
What’s cool is that if you push the Command key on your keyboard while the Recent Items menu is shown, everything changes to be a bit more useful:
All very helpful, unless your goal is to never have anything in Recent Items, without having to remember to clear it every time you finish using the iMac. For that change, we need to switch to Settings…
RECENT APPS IN THE MAC DOCK
Before we look at the Settings options, however, a quick sidetrack to show that the Dock also utilizes Recent Apps to show the icons of the most recent apps separate to those that are running and those you’ve pinned to your Dock. For example:
The app icons shown in the middle section – Settings, 1Password, and Handbrake – are the “Recent Apps”. This can be quite convenient, but, again, if you’re playing games while your fellow Mac device user thinks you’re working, hiding the recent apps might be better. With this section hidden, my Dock is a bit less revealing:
That entire section has vanished and the Dock is all the app icons I have pinned plus any additional apps or programs I have running at the moment (notably Settings, the gear icon).
Again, though, who do you control this? It’s all about Settings…
MENU AND DOCK RECENT ITEM SETTINGS
Open up Settings and navigate to Desktop & Dock, then scroll down just a little bit:
The top portion are Dock settings and the last of them is “Show recent applications in Dock“. Disable that and the app icons showing up in the Dock will vanish (if they aren’t otherwise running or pinned). Easy.
In terms of the Recent Items, notice that’s the second choice in the Menu Bar area: “Recent documents, applications, and servers” and that mine shows “5” as the value. That means the OS will track and show the five most recent in each of those three categories, exactly what is shown above.
You can increase that number if it’s useful, or you can simply disable the feature entirely by setting it to “none”:
Notice that you can go as high as 50, though if you’re a typical user, 50 documents is going to cover the last few weeks of Mac usage, and servers? Does anyone ever connect to 50 different servers? Unfortunately, you cannot choose to have “None” for servers and “20” for documents or applications, so it’s all or nothing.
Now that you know, I encourage you to reconsider setting up separate accounts for each of you on the iMac. It really is the most elegant solution and exactly how the Mac system is designed to support multiple users. Still a no go? Okay, now you at least know how to manage Recent Items in the Finder and Dock!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about the Mac since the very first system was released. Please check out my extensive Mac Help Library while you’re visiting. Thanks!