Where did my Recent Items go in Windows 8?

I come across many people that have been asking me where the recent items list has gone in Windows 8. While the recent items list in Windows 7 (and prior) was useful, it is no longer available for Windows 8. There are a couple reasons for this with the most obvious being that we don’t have a Start Menu anymore. Possibly another may be the fact that Windows 8 Modern UI Style applications (formerly known as Metro) are meant to be “isolated” from the rest of the system. All well and good for mobile implications, devices, and Modern UI apps, but it leaves the dedicated desktop/laptop users with legacy applications longing for the old ways.

Not to fret though, there is some of this functionality still available to us, however the focus to use it is a bit different. Primarily you will find that your pinned start menu items are now functionally mimicked in the taskbar pinning. Because of this you most likely will find yourself pinning your most-used apps to the taskbar just as you did with apps to the start menu in Windows 7. I have mixed feelings about this, but irrelevantly, lets show you how to get some of your recent items functionality back.

Application’s recent list (Jump List)

Recent Items for applications (Jump Lists) are located in the application shortcut , just like Windows 7 had from the start menu . The problem though is that the list is not accessible from the start screen, but it is available if you pin it to the taskbar. I will show you how to do this using Microsoft Word 2010 as an example.

  1. Press the Windows Logo key on your keyboard and type “word” (you can stop as soon as you see the application appear). You can also just open the start screen and find Microsoft Word 2010 from the list of shortcuts and tiles.
    Windows 8 Start Menu search
  2. Right-click on the application to make the options appear at the bottom of the Start Panel. Click on “Pin to taskbar” to add the application to the taskbar (Press “Esc” to exit the Start Panel and go back to your desktop). Windows 8 Start Menu shortcut properties
  3. Once the application has been added to the taskbar, you can now see a list of recent files (Jump List) that you opened by right-clicking on it in the taskbar.
    Windos 8 Recent Items or Jump List

Editing setting for the Jump List

OK, now that you have added an application and have access to its recent items, you may want to make some modifications so that you can expand or shrink the number of files listed. This list of files and settings are known as the “Jump List” for the application. The Jump List properties are in the taskbar properties, just like previously in Windows 7. To view or change the settings, right-click on the task bar and select Properties from the options menu. Click on the Jump List tab and adjust your settings according to your preferences

taskbar properties dialog

Recent Items List

Applications and Jump Lists are all fine a good if you remember which app you were using or have it pinned to the taskbar. However, there are times that you just need to find the file you just saved from your seldom used application and locating it in the recently used list would be nice. The great thing is that this still exists, you just have to link to it.

This symbolic link to the recent items folder is similar to the Recent Items in Windows 7, however this list is of everything you have accessed and is not filtered down to a limited number of items. That means that you will have a large number of items to sort through. However, this is still way less than if you were doing a search for a file from the Start Screen. To add the recent items to your start menu  perform the following (this is an object and therefore not pinnable to the taskbar as a menu folder or application):

  1. Open explorer and browse to C:\Users\<your username>
  2. Right-click on “Recent” and select “Pin to Start”
  3. You can then find it in the start menu and rename it to something you find faster to type in Search or leave it as is.

Bonus Tip

Now that you have the recent items folder and see all the shortcuts, how do you identify which file you want? If you hover your mouse over an item, the item’s location is displayed and you can use this information to assist you in determining the file you want.

Recent Items shortcut location


Windows 8 does take a little getting used to. However, after using it since Spring, I have a hard time going back to Windows 7 or previous OS’s. Hopefully these tips will help you better utilize your system and make finding your recent files a little faster process.

Jason Condo
Principal Consultant, Systems Management and Operations