What's the best way to get the recently opened files in helm. Without helm I just did C-c C-f and then arrow up to get the last opened file. And with M-r I was able to to a regexp search through recently opened files. Both doesn't work with helm anymore.

I have

(setq helm-ff-file-name-history-use-recentf t)

in my .emacs file, but it doesn't seem to have any effect.

3 Answers 3


Indeed, if helm-ff-file-name-history-use-recentf set to true, helm-find-files is supposed to use recentf-list instead of file-name-history.

To enable the recenf minor mode, I have those lines in my init file:

; keep a list of recently opened files                                                                      
 (recentf-mode 1)
 (setq-default recent-save-file "~/.emacs.d/recentf")  

What about M-x helm-recentf?

helm-recentf is an interactive autoloaded Lisp function in


Preconfigured helm for recentf.

You may also be interested by recent files within Emacs.

  • 2
    So helm-find-files seems to be suposed to provide a history of files anyway (either via file-name-history or via recentf-list). Both doesn't seem to work for me. helm-recentf per se and helm-mini works, but that's another thing. Could you add a screenshot of how helm-find-file is suposed to display recently opened files (both via file-name-history and via helm-recentf)? Do I need to press any shortcuts to get it displayed?
    – student
    Aug 1, 2015 at 9:36

Perhaps this isn't quite what you're looking for, but I really like using helm-mini, which includes a small browser for recent open files (by calling helm-recentf as Nsukami suggests you use). Here is an example, taken from this amazing post on helm:


Not only does it show all of your open buffers, but it's my most convenient way to view recently opened files. I'd recommend giving it a try!

  • 3
    Those posts are farking great, but can become too daunting for beginners to helm. They are full of plenty good tricks and advices, though they have a steep learning curve and I do not consider them appropriate for a quick hack or solution. I guess emacs.stackexchange is in part here to solve that.
    – nephewtom
    Mar 30, 2017 at 7:19
  • 1
    By the way, helm-mini is enough for me to answer the question. ;-)
    – nephewtom
    Mar 30, 2017 at 7:26

There's a helm-ff-file-name-history command that displays recently opened files. By default this one is bound to C-c h when in helm-find-files mode.

Also there is a C-h m command that displays help on currently active helm command. You can see key bindings and available commands there.

  • Amazing, thank you. This is the correct answer, it deserves more upvotes.
    – hraban
    Dec 4, 2022 at 23:20

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