How to Maximize Excel's Recent Items Menu


Spreadsheets and graphs on a desk

Depending upon your version of Excel, the Recent list on the File menu can streamline access to both files and folders. If you work on numerous spreadsheets, this list offers marginal value in Excel 2003 and earlier. The list gained some new functionality in Excel 2007, reached its zenith in Excel 2010, and fell back somewhat in Excel 2013. This list provides one-click access to between 4 and 25 files (and sometimes folders). As you'll see in this article, each version of Excel offers markedly different functionality with regard to accessing recent spreadsheets.

Excel 2013This version of Excel launches you into a gauntlet of screens in which you must navigate through to get to an Open dialog box; however, you can easily streamline access. To do so, choose File, Options, and then:
  • In the General section, disable Show the Start Screen When This Application Starts.
  • In the Save section, enable Don't Show the Backstage When Opening or Saving Files.
  • In the Advanced section: (1) change Show This Number of Recent Workbooks to 50 instead of 25; (2) enable Quickly Access This Number of Recent Workbooks; and (3) be cautious about changing the Show This Number of Unpinned Recent Folders much beyond 8, because incrementing this too high means you'll always have to scroll down to access the Browse button, which will impede access to your spreadsheets.

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What would be useful is if the most recent feature was in order. Sometimes I close out a file and its not even showing in the most recent files. The last file I closed should be at the top of the list.

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That frustrates me as well. I've noticed and been frustrated by the behavior but haven't ever studied it in depth. It appears that if you open a file and close it without saving then it won't appear on the Recent list. Any file that you open and save before closing *should* appear on the menu, but Excel is quite nuanced, so your mileage may vary.

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Are you able to access the list of "pinned" Microsoft Office items in Windows Explorer? I'm looking to take a copy of these locations for when we move to a new PC.

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Great question! Shortcuts to the files are available in this folder:


You should be able to copy the contents of that folder from the current PC to the same location on the new PC. If you try this out, please let me know how your experience goes.

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