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2015-11-01

Clear Recent Documents List on OS X

TL;DR: 
Remove the relevant .sfl file located under the following directory:
~/Library/Application Support/com.apple.sharedfilelist/com.apple.LSSharedFileList.ApplicationRecentDocuments/

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It's Halloween! Time for scary stuff. As the tech admin of the house, my job tonight was to make sure a series of old scary movie classics, think of Poltergeist , can be streamed to TV.

I decided to clear the existing list of QuickTime Player's Recently Opened Files and pre-populate the list with the scary movies. This can be done from GUI:

QuickTime Player > File > Open Recent > Clear Menu

Nothing is wrong with that, but I wondered how I would do that from Command Line. Interestingly, I could not locate a setting in a .plist. If you Google, you will find suggestions similar to below, but on El Capitan (10.11), these settings did not exist


adil-imac-1:~ adil$ defaults read com.apple.QuickTimePlayerX.LSSharedFileList RecentDocuments
2015-10-31 23:35:21.932 defaults[12222:1913397] 

The domain/default pair of (/Users/adil/Library/Preferences/com.apple.QuickTimePlayerX.LSSharedFileList, RecentDocuments) does not exist

So, to find which file I needed to look at, I decided to use good old, 'find' command. The technique is well known:
  • First create a temporary file
  • Then take action (launch a movie) to cause a file change, as new movie is added to the recent items
  • Lastly do a find for all files newer than the temporary file we created


touch /private/var/tmp/now
sudo find / -newer /private/var/tmp/now

This, usually works, but file list could be larger. In my test, it returned 120 files in that short time frame.

There are other issues with this approach:
  • It's relatively slow!
  • If you have external drives mounted, you might need to try -x to avoid scanning them

There is a better way! Try Spotlight from command line: mdfind.  

Approach is pretty similar to find, except there is no need to create a temporary file. 
  • Make the change
  • Immediately run mdfind telling it to look for changes in the last, say 15secs.

mdfind 'kMDItemFSContentChangeDate>$time.now(-15)'

k: kind
MD: Metadata
FS: File System
$Time variable is explained in the Apple Developer Documentation link below

Apple Developer documentation on MetaData Query Expression Syntax has some examples on using MetaData information. There are a few examples here as well.  

mdfind command pointed to this file:

~/Library/Application Support/com.apple.sharedfilelist/com.apple.LSSharedFileList.ApplicationRecentDocuments/com.apple.quicktimeplayerx.sfl

What's .sfl? Not exactly sure but it probably stands for 'Shared File List' and apparently is meant to hold "Bookmark Data".

The content of the .sfl file is kinda cryptic. Incidentally, I found a blog post from a couple of days ago that goes about Exposing "BookmarkData"

When you manually clear the Recent Documents, the .sfl file becomes shorter in size. However, as there does not seem to be a tool to manipulate the file yet, deleting the file seems like a safe way to clear bookmarks.

Just in case people are wondering, yes, VLC has 'org.videolan.vlc.sfl' located at the same folder, and removing that file cleared the VLC recent docs as well. 


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