Removing Entries from the Microsoft Office Apps Recent Files Lists in macOS

R

Every so often – usually around the time of a major new macOS release – I perform a clean install of the OS on my Macs. Along with restoring user data I tend to restore the configuration data of certain applications including the Microsoft Office applications. While this is a great timesaver, it can also cause some unexpected results. For example, the Recent file lists in Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Let’s use Word as an example.

Opening a freshly installed copy of Word, I’m greeted with the Recent file list showing all the files I opened prior to performing a clean macOS install.

Recent file list in Word
Recent file list in Word

 

 

This is not as useful as it first seems. If I try to open one of these files I get a message saying that Word is unable to open that file even though I know it has been restored to the exact same location on my Mac’s drive.

Unable to open file message
Unable to open file message

 

 

I’m left with a completely useless Recent file list. No worries, I can select all the recent file entries with a couple of mouse clicks and delete them en masse, right? Wrong. I can only select each entry individually and control-clicking gives the following options:

Recent file list options
Recent file list options

 

 

Not wanting to have to remove each entry separately, I started digging around the file system and found the file com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.plist containing all the recently opened Word documents buried deep within the Word configuration data. The full path to the file is ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences.

Rather than delete this file, I first closed Word then renamed it as com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.old.plist from the command line:

Dummy Content
mv ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.plist ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.old.plist

 

 

On re-opening Word, the Recent file list is now empty:

Empty Recent file list in Word
Empty Recent file list in Word

 

 

There are similar configuration files for Excel and PowerPoint:

Dummy Content
mv ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Excel.securebookmarks.plist ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Excel.securebookmarks.old.plist

 

 

Dummy Content
mv ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Powerpoint/Data/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Powerpoint.securebookmarks.plist ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Powerpoint/Data/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Powerpoint.securebookmarks.old.plist

 

 

This is certainly not a subtle approach. By renaming the configuration files, you’ll lose all the Recent file entries along with the Pinned and Shared With Me file lists. To me, this is preferable to having a long list of files that can’t be opened. It may also be useful if – for whatever reason – you want to start afresh with a new Recent file list.

About the author

A native Brit exiled in Japan, Steve spends too much of his time struggling with the Japanese language, dreaming of fish & chips and writing the occasional blog post he hopes others will find helpful.

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