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.
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. I assume this is because each entry is now merely a broken reference or symbolic link to the original file.
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:
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 buried deep within the Word configuration data containing all the recently opened Word documents. The full path to the file is
Rather than delete this file, I first closed Word then renamed it as
com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.old.plist from the command line:
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:
There are similar configuration files for Excel and PowerPoint:
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
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.