GTK applications mark files as recently used by adding them to the XML in ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel, but I am frequently working with files from terminal-driven applications like latex, and these are not marked in the GTK list and hence not available from the "Recent" bookmark in GUI file browsers/pickers etc..

Is there a CLI command I can use to explicitly add files to the Recent list, for smoothing operations between the terminal and GUI sides of my Linux usage? Either an official way, or a fast & simple hack with the side-effect of writing to the recently-used.xbel file!


The following Python script will add all the files given as arguments to the recently-used list, using GIO:


import gi, sys
gi.require_version('Gtk', '3.0')
from gi.repository import Gtk, Gio, GLib

rec_mgr = Gtk.RecentManager.get_default()

for arg in sys.argv[1:]:


The last two lines are necessary to start the Gtk event loop; if you don’t do that, the changed signal from the manager won’t be handled, and the files won’t be added to the recently-used list.

  • Good one! would you make it read from stdin? so that one can feed it through a pipe. Would be good for eg piping a find . -type f -amin -10 into that script.. – LL3 Mar 29 at 15:00
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    You can use xargs or find’s -execfind . -type f -amin -10 -exec add-recent {} +. – Stephen Kitt Mar 29 at 15:27
  • Very true. I just thought it would be much slower though, what with re-executing the whole python executable’s bootstrap for each file – LL3 Mar 29 at 15:40
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    -exec {} + calls the script with as many files as possible in one go, not once per file, so the overhead will be very small. – Stephen Kitt Mar 29 at 15:46
  • That's great, thanks. I'd started going down this route myself via stackoverflow.com/questions/39836725/… -- so I guess there's no "more official" route. I also found it useful to add an option to call os.utime(arg, None) to make the marked file appear at the top of the time-ordered Recent list for maximum convenience (at the cost of losing an "accurate" modification timestamp). – andybuckley Apr 1 at 9:35

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