Customize the Recently Used Files List in Microsoft Office

Learn How to Pin Favorite Documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and More

Advanced Display Options in Microsoft Office
Advanced Display Options in Microsoft Office. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of MicrosoftAdvanced Display Options in Microsoft Office

You have likely noticed that Microsoft Office programs feature a Recently Used list to make it easier to get back to work on your documents.

But did you know you can customize the Recently Used files list? This is a list in the backstage area of some Microsoft Office programs. In more recent versions of Office, you can specify a few preferences, making it simpler to get work done in a file. Specifically, you can clear the list, change how many items appear in the list, pin a specific document to the list, and more.

Here's how.

  1. Open an Office program such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
  2. Select File - Open as though you are starting a new document. You should see a list of recently used files. Again, this is something you likely already knew, but here are some additional ways to make this feature even more useful for you.
  3. To customize how many files show on the Recent Documents List, select File - Options - Advanced - Display - Show this Number of Recent Documents. In that field, you can choose how many you want, then type the number in.
  4. To clear the Recent Documents List, just set this number to zero. In some versions of Office, you can also go to the File - Open screen, then right-click one of the documents in the list. Select Clear Unpinned Documents.
  5. Pinning files allows you to keep them even as other files cycle through. If you open a bunch of files but still have frequently used ones you would like fast access to, this can be a real help. To pin a file of your choosing to the Recently Used Files List, select File – Open – Hover over the file in the Recent Documents List – Click the push pin icon (this should appear to the right of the file name). 
  1. To unpin a document from the list, click the pin icon again so that it rotates back to the unpinned position (sideways). Alternatively, you can right-click the list entry and select Unpin from List. You may want to unpin documents if  a recently used document is no longer useful or relevant because you no longer need to work in it. 

    Tips:

    1. Pinning is not available in all versions of Office, or in all programs in the suite.
    2. Remember, pinned documents will be designated with a push pin icon that is vertical. Unpinned documents feature a horizontal push pin icon.
    3. If you right-click a document, you should also see the Copy Path to Clipboard feature. This refers to where the document is saved on your computer. It is another way of locating files quickly. With this approach, you can find the document without opening it, for example.
    4. If you cannot see the Recent Files list at all, you can try this approach: find the automatic destinations folder in your computer's system, then delete files larger than 1 MB. If  you cannot find files this large or have other problems with this approach, check out this forum thread for additional detail and help: List of Recent Documents Not Showing Up.

    Here are some additional things you may want to consider customizing in Microsoft Office programs: