Completely delete the "Recently used" list from Mac Office Word and Excel

Excel list last used

A reader recently asked me if I had a tip on how to completely delete the list of recently used documents in the Microsoft Office version of Excel and Word for the Mac. At first I thought that would be a relatively simple question, because you usually delete these lists with the most recently used documents on the Mac in this way:

  • Click on the apple symbol at the top left
  • Select "Used Objects".
  • Select "Delete entries" at the bottom of the list

So I sent him this quick guide and thought the problem was solved. But of course I did the calculation without Microsoft, because all Microsoft Office for Mac programs manage these lists independently and accordingly the procedure above does nothing at all.

In Microsoft Word you will always find a list of the most recently used documents after the start. Emptying this list is not entirely trivial, but it is possible!
In Microsoft Word you will always find a list of the most recently used documents after the start. Emptying this list is not entirely trivial, but it is possible!

Differences between Mac and Windows Office

If you research specifically for tips on how to remove this list of recently used files, you will come across two types of instructions:

  1. Right-click the entry and then "Use from allowed" remove.” – i.e. remove from the list recently used. That cuts, but you have to do the procedure with each individual entry, which may take some time.
  2. There are some forum posts that actually provide helpful and working instructions - when using Office for Windows.

The ability to remove the entire list was simply not implemented by Microsoft for Office for Mac. So there is no "convenient" way to clear this list with one click.

Here in the screenshot you can see the path where you have to struggle to get to the corresponding plist file (for Word).
Here in the screenshot you can see the path where you have to struggle to get to the corresponding plist file (for Word).

Update 30.11.2020/XNUMX/XNUMX: Empty files and turn on write protection

My reader Richard, who gave the first good tip about how to delete the list of recently used documents, has another tip on how to keep the list permanently empty without deleting the file again and again.

The trick is: You find the relevant file, empty its contents with a text editor and then activate the write protection of the operating system so that Word or Excel cannot change this file again. Close all Office applications beforehand!

Important: If "USERNAME" appears in the paths below, you must replace this name with your username, otherwise you will not find the corresponding folders.

Procedure with Excel

In the folder: /Users/USERNAME/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences
the file: com.microsoft.Excel.securebookmarks.plist
Empty with the text editor (i.e. 0 bytes) and then protect.

Protecting works by highlighting the file and then pressing CMD + I. An information window for the file then opens in which you set the checkmark under "General" > "Locked".

Procedure with PowerPoint

In the folder: /Users/USERNAME/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Powerpoint/Data/Library/Preferences
the file: com.microsoft.Powerpoint.securebookmarks.plist
Empty with the text editor (i.e. 0 bytes) and then protect (refer to Excel for instructions).

Procedure with Word

In the folder: /Users/USERNAME/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences
the file: com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.plist
Empty it with the text editor (i.e. 0 bytes) and then protect it (refer to Excel for instructions).

[Old tip] Delete the list by removing the corresponding file

My reader Richard then - after I had long since given up - found a way how to delete the list with a reasonably manageable effort.

To do this, go to the library folder (here a Instructions on how to open the library folder) and then follow the instructions below.

Instructions for Word

You go to this folder:

/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/

Inside is a file called "com.microsoft.Word.securebookmarks.plist". You should rename or delete them and then restart Microsoft Word.

Instructions for Excel

You go to this folder:

/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/

Inside is a file called "com.microsoft.Excel.securebookmarks.plist". You should rename or delete them and then restart Microsoft Excel.

The instructions seem to work with all Office for Mac versions. My reader has Office Mac 2019 and I have Office Suite 365 and it works for both of us.

If you have done everything correctly and restarted Word, the list of recently used documents should be empty.
If you have done everything correctly and restarted Word, the list of recently used documents should be empty.

Tip: Create an alias for the folder

After the action, the "recently used" view in Excel or Word should be empty. If you need to do this thing more often, I would add an alias to the folder on the desktop.

To do this, open the path mentioned above until you are in the /Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/ folder.

Now right-click on the "Preferences" folder and select "Create alias" in the context menu. This creates a new alias folder that you can then drag to the desktop, for example. Double-clicking on this will take you directly to the subfolder in the future, where you will find the "securebookmarks.plist" that needs to be deleted.

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27 Response to “Completely Clear Mac Office Word and Excel Recent List”

  1. Great post!

    For powerpoint
    com.microsoft.powerpoint.securebookmarks.plist

    Thank you for mentioning my name in this post.

    VG
    Richard

  2. Hi Jens,

    I have the opposite problem. Microsoft doesn't remember anything with me, neither with Excel (16.16.19) nor with Word.
    The favorites lists are always empty.
    I signed out and signed in to the Microsoft account.
    I moved the preferences to the trash.
    For Excel I made a list with all the tables.
    And in between, of course, the computer was shut down and back up again.

    Have you already had something similar?

    1. Hello wolf! Unfortunately no, but maybe the very files that I write above that you have to delete are defective. Try to delete it too. Maybe he will then create new ones ?!

  3. Hello wolf!

    Maybe the files mentioned above are read-only for you.
    As Jens had already written delete the files.
    My idea is to restart the Mac after deleting it and have a look (don't start Word) whether the files are gone.

  4. Hello, Jens
    Thank you very much for the instructions, it worked fine for me. I was wondering how to permanently disable the display of recently used files. Because I actually don't want to have them. Do you know a solution for that?
    Thanks and regards
    Toni

  5. When starting Word 2019, you can also deactivate the display of recently used files by unchecking Settings - General - Show document catalog when opening Word.
    Open last used can be found under file!

    1. Hello Richard! Does this work for you on a Mac or on Windows? I already knew that it would work with Windows, but I still haven't found a way for the Mac ...

          1. With Office 2019 on the MacBook Air, none of the above tips work for me.
            The files that were opened earlier are still located under "Recently used". With Excel and PowerPoint, manual removal helps, with Word they sometimes reappear immediately

  6. A super helpful guide - thank you! My files are all on some network files and web drives and Word starts again in 2 seconds - great!

    1. Hello Rolf! Oh, the use case hasn't even occurred to me. I am very pleased that Word is now starting quickly again. : D

    1. Hello Erik! I assume you didn't swap "name" for your username in the paths because I just tried that a few days ago and found the files through those paths. If not: Can you perhaps tell which path you are attached to?

      1. I also had the problem: the specified path did not lead to the file and the file could not be found via the search. Only when I displayed the hidden files (thanks for the tip above!) Did the search work.
        My path was as follows: / Users / USERNAME / Library / Containers / Microsoft Excel / Data / Library / Preferences
        Deleting the com.microsoft.Excel.securebookmarks.plist file then achieved the desired result.

        1. Hello Petra! For me, the invisible files are permanently set to "visible" ... so I never think about this step. :D But thanks for your hint!

  7. Hello Jens, may I share this page with my tip in the Apple Community and ect. share ?
    This tip is probably not widespread!
    Greetings Richard

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