El Capitan has been a pretty solid upgrade for Mac OS X but it’s not without its foibles.
A major problem, which I tried in vain to fix, was that “Favorites” (sic) disappeared from the sidebar of the system Save dialog. Losing direct access to all the logical places where I might like to save a file was very annoying. The only workaround was to navigate manually through the directory tree, like an ANIMAL. It also, inadvertently, led me to use iCloud to store some relatively unimportant documents. That’s because the iCloud silo for the app in question (say, Pages) did appear. I suspected a plot on Apple’s part, to make iCloud much easier to use than the alternative. But one should always remember that cock-ups are usually much more powerful than conspiracies.
Another less important problem that I had was that “Open Recent” was empty in all apps. I find this submenu very useful from time to time, especially when dragging together content from old presentations.
These two problems turned out to have a common solution.
This question and the answers on Ask Different illustrate the problem. As usual, it’s a corrupted plist. Before nuking recentitems.plist, the “General” setting for number of “Recent Items” reported the right value (zero), could be set to new value but the value didn’t stick. Deleting the file and it’s lock file was easy enough (hold option to get “Library” in the Go menu of Finder). After a reboot, the value in “General” defaults to 10, can be altered, and a bunch of files populates the menu. To me, the repopulation of menu indicates that the data is generated by Spotlight on demand.
To my delight, the favo(u)rites in the “Save as..” sidebar are also back!