MRU Files Won't Display

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 15, 2020)


MRU is an acronym for Most Recently Used and indicates a list of the most recently opened workbooks within Excel. The purpose of the list is to make it easier to access the files you were recently working on. Ian noted that he can't get Excel to display the MRU list and is wondering if he is missing something.

It is possible that something could be being missed. There are a couple of things you should check in this regard. First, turn on the MRU list in this manner:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box, click Advanced.
  3. Scroll through the available options until you find the Display group. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Advanced section of the Excel Options dialog box.

  5. Change the first control in the group (Show this Number of Recent Documents) to reflect the number of MRU listings you want.
  6. Click OK.

This setting controls the number of listings shown in the Recent Documents list when you click the Office button (Excel 2007), display the File tab of the ribbon (Excel 2010), or display the File tab of the ribbon and click Open (later versions of Excel). This list of workbooks is unlike the older MRU list, in that you can display more of them.

Both Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 have a different place that you can display an MRU list: at the bottom of the left side of the File tab pane. This list of workbooks is entirely different than the MRU. You control how many files are listed there in different ways, depending on your version of Excel.

If you are using Excel 2010 and you display the File tab of the ribbon, you'll see an option at the very bottom of the tab. This check box is labeled "Quickly Access this Number of Recent Documents" and controls the number of files displayed.

If you are using Excel 2013 and later versions and display the Advanced options in the Excel Options dialog box (see the screen shot earlier in this tip), there is an option to "Quickly Access this Number of Recent Workbooks." This is the setting that controls the number of files listed on the File tab pane.

Once you've gotten your various MRU lists set up to display the number of workbooks you want, then you just need to start using Excel. As you do, the lists are "filled out" and provide a way to get to your most recently used workbooks. Remember, however, that if you move your Excel files to a different location, those files will no longer be accessible through the MRU.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9509) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Document is Too Large for Word to Handle

Imagine trying to open a familiar document one day, only to find that Word gives you an error message that the file is ...

Discover More

Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents

Have you ever entered information in a cell only for it to appear as hash marks? This tip explains why this happens, how ...

Discover More

Using Alt to Switch Language Keyboards

There are scores of keyboard shortcuts built into both Windows and Word. If you run into a conflict between shortcut ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Pulling Filenames into a Worksheet

You can use Excel for all types of data processing. You may want to work with filenames in a worksheet, but the first ...

Discover More

Creating a Dated Backup File

As you are developing your workbooks, you might want a way to automatically create backup files that include a date and ...

Discover More

Locked File Puzzle

What would you do if every time you opened a workbook Excel told you it was locked? Here's how you can try to recover ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one more than 7?

2020-03-28 10:19:16


This is not the way to do this - it only changes the number displayed, but if you have recent docs off - this is grayed out. So how do I turn it back on. I know I turned it off - can't remember how.

2015-09-16 11:49:20


When I open a Workbook from an E-mail, Xcel refuses to remember that I worked on It. Only if I save it to a local folder will it treat it as a MRU. Totally different from 2010 or 2007 very frustrating. Is there a setting that I can change so that Xcel remembers EVERY workbook that I open?

2015-08-03 18:38:24


I thought mine were missing too in Excel 2013. I found them when you select FILE > you can see your "Recent Workbooks". I believe in Excel 2010, you select FILE > Recent

2015-05-27 09:34:34

Dave K

Thanks Tony. My File tab must be the same as yours, based on the "Quickly access...." description.

Curiously though... until recently I could right-click on the Excel icon or currently-open-workbook icon on the taskbar to display a list or recently opened documents. Not now. All I get is a choice of 3 items:
Microsoft Excel 2010
Unpin this program from taskbar
Close window

I used to have a list of documents above these three. If I have, for example, a PDF file open in Adobe, all the recent documents plus the corresponding three options appear in the pop-up list.

Could my missing Recent list be a Windows setting rather than Excel?

Any ideas how I might get them back?

2015-03-21 06:27:17

Tony Davis

I'm using Excel 2010 and the check box labeled "Quickly Access this Number of Recent Documents" is not under "options".
Click the "File" tab, click "Recent" and the check box is at the bottom of the window showing the List of Recent Workbooks.

After saying that, all this does is show the quick list of recent files on the File Tab to save you clicking on "recent" but the names are trimmed to fit the width of the left bar.

Because of that, I personally prefer to simply add "open recent file" to my QAT (Quick access toolbar). It's a tick option on the customise QAT drop down so you don't need to go and locate it.

That way, instead of clicking on "File", then "Recent", just click on "Open Recent" from the QAT.

I have 17 options on my QAT so far.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.