Recent Documents List Doesn’t Appear in Microsoft Word, Excel, Etc.

It’s convenient to have a list of recently opened documents available when working with one of Microsoft Office’s components such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Just open the File menu (Office button in Office 2007), select the document you want, and it opens again. But what if there’s no such list?

The problem may be in the Office component that you are using, or it may be in Windows settings that affect all recent document lists. Try the Office component first.

In Word 2003, for instance:

Click Tools, Options, then the General tab
Check the recent documents list box and set the number of recent documents to display

In Word 2007:

Click on the Office button, then on Word Options -> Advanced
Scroll down to the Display section
Set the value for `Show this number of Recent Documents`

Sometimes the option to change the number of recent documents may be unavailable, “grayed out.” In that case, Windows itself is preventing the display of a recent documents list. To see if recent documents are disabled everywhere:

Click Start, then Run
Enter regedit
Navigate to the following registry entry:


In the right-hand pane, see if there is a DWORD named “NoRecentDocsHistory”. If there is, either delete it or set its value to zero. Then close regedit and reboot.

You may want to clear all recent documents lists when you log out of Windows to prevent anyone else from seeing what you have been working on. That can be done by adding a new DWORD to the registry entry shown above.

Right-click in the right-hand window and click on New
Click on DWORD Value
Name the DWORD “ClearRecentDocsOnExit”
Click on the DWORD to set its value to zero (no clear) or one (clear on log out)
Close regedit and reboot