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Excel Increase the Number of Workbooks in the Recent Documents List

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Increase the Number of Workbooks
in the Recent Documents List

Problem: I routinely open the same 20 workbooks. How can I use the Recent Files list to make my life easier?

Strategy: Starting in Excel 2007, you can show up to 50 recent workbooks. You can pin a document to the list, essentially creating a favorite. In Excel 2010, the Recent Workbooks also shows you Recent Places which is handy when you have to open the next document from the Budget folder.

Additional Details: Clicking the Office Icon in Excel 2007 will automatically show you Recent Workbooks on the right side of the flyout menu.

Excel 2010’s File menu might or might not show you Recent Workbooks. If you don’t have another workbook open, clicking File will get you to the Recent pane. If another workbook is open, you will see the Info pane instead. There are two workarounds for seeing Recent Workbooks all the time.

First, you can add the Open Recent File icon to the Quick Access Toolbar as described in “Make Your Most-Used Icons Always Visible.”

Second, there is a setting at the bottom of the Excel 2010 Recent pane to always show a certain number of recent workbooks.

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Figure 44 Add a few recent workbooks to the left bar of the File menu.

Using the option in the figure above allows you to use Alt+F+3 to open the third most recent document.

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Figure 45 Add recent workbooks to the File menu.

Additional Details: The grey thumbtacks to the right of each workbook allow you to create favorites. Click the thumbtack to pin a workbook to the Recent list. Say that you always use three workbooks during the accounting close. Over the course of a month, you open hundreds of files so those three documents scroll out of the Recent pane. By pinning them to the list, you will always have access to those documents in the Recent list.

The number of documents in the Recent pane is limited by the height of your monitor. If your monitor is tall enough, you could list as many as 50 recent items in the list. Go to Options, Advanced. Scroll down to the Display group. The first item in that group is Show This Number of Recent Documents. Use the spin button to increase to 50 or as many as will fit on your screen.

Additional Details: The Recent Documents list in Excel 2007/2010 works better than the Recently Used File List in Excel 2003. The old list worked fine for files opened through File, Open, but it failed to note files that were opened by double-clicking in Windows Explorer. Now, the Recent Documents list will note files that are opened through Windows Explorer or even files opened through a macro.

Gotcha: Although you can specify for the Recent Documents list to show up to 50 files, the number of files it can actually show is limited by your available screen space. If you have a 1440x900 monitor, as suggested in “Go Wide” on page 4, you will have room for only about 36 files. Excel will not add a second column nor a scrollbar to the Recent Documents to show more files.

Gotcha: If you are snooping around in files that you should not be looking at, the Recent Documents list can be problematic. The operation of the list changed since Excel 2003. It used to be that you could delete file 5 from the list by changing the setting to 4 files and then back to 9 files. This would clear items 5 through 9 from the list. An “improvement” in Excel 2007 is that if you change the setting from 50 to 5 and then back to 50, Excel will immediately return to showing the last 50 items in the list. If you are trying to hide your trail, you have to set the setting back to 0 files. This is the only way to delete the file list from the cache.

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