Emacs does not keep track of recently visited files by default. Sad, but true. On a more positive note - it has the feature (courtesy of the built-in recentf package), but it’s simply not enabled out-of-the-box. Let’s see what we can do to change that:

(require 'recentf)
(setq recentf-max-saved-items 200
      recentf-max-menu-items 15)
(recentf-mode +1)

That wasn’t that hard. Now Emacs will keep track of the last 200 files we visited and will show the last 15 of them in the File->Open recent(this menu entry is added by recentf) menu. That’s it.

At this point you’re probably feeling let down. After all - who uses the menu bar in Emacs anyways? Fortunately there is also a command named recentf-open-files. Upon invoking it with M-x recentf-open-files you’ll be presented with a list of all recently visited files.

If you’re an ido user you might prefer to use some command based on it instead. Here’s one:

(defun er-recentf-ido-find-file ()
  "Find a recent file using ido."
  (let ((file (ido-completing-read "Choose recent file: " recentf-list nil t)))
    (when file
      (find-file file))))

I’d suggest binding whichever command you prefer to either C-c f or C-x C-r (bound by default to the infrequently used find-file-read-only command):

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c f") #'er-recentf-ido-find-file)

As usual - both the command er-recentf-ido-find-file and its keybinding C-c f are available in Prelude (naturally recentf is enabled there out-of-the-box).