Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Recent File Lists

Have you ever gone to open a file from your recent file list and find that it has gone?

This has happened to me often (in Word, NotePad++, and other programs) and it is extremely annoying especially if you can't remember where the file is stored.  The trouble is you come to rely on being able to open a special file (or several files) from the list and consequently forget where it is on the disk.  Then it takes a lot of time to go and find it.

For example, just now I went to open an Excel spreadsheet with a table of credit card numbers (test numbers not real ones for those of you who were wondering).  Because I had also been recently working with some test scripts in Excel spreadsheets the list of about 20 files in the recent file list did not include the file I needed anymore.  I searched my local disk and could not find it, and I really didn't have the time to search our large network drive.  (Luckily, I found a copy attached to an old email.)

This is why I find it surprising that I have not seen any other software copy my idea of the "Recent File Dialog" which has been in HexEdit for almost 10 years.  It basically keeps track of all the files you have ever opened (as well as the time you last opened it in HexEdit and other things), until you delete them from the list or clear the list completely.

If anybody knows of other software that has copied HexEdit's approach please let me know!

Windows 7

I guess the above problem is the reason that Windows 7 has added the facility for frequently used file lists.  For software that supports it you can right-click the program icon on the Taskbar and see a list of frequently used files (as well as the familiar recently used file list).  I applaud this improvement but there are additional advantages to the system provided in HexEdit ...

What if you have forgotten the name of the file but remember (or can work out) when you created it, modified it or last opened it.  You can sort the list of files in HexEdit on any column such as time created or modified, size, or the time you last opened it.

You can also use the category, keywords and comments fields (since HexEdit 3.2) to make it easy to find the files you are looking for.  See this forum post for more:;f=6;t=2.

Deleting Entries in the Recent File List

Another annoyance I just noticed with Excel (2007 version) is that you can't delete from the recent file list.  I right-clicked on a file in the list and, though a popup menu appeared, there was no option to remove the file from the list.

You may ask why would anyone want to do this?  There are many reasons:
  • to remove a file from the list that you know you will never open again
  • to remove a file that you know has been moved or deleted
  • to remove a file that you don't want anyone to know you opened
  • to remove unimportant files so that the list is not cluttered
This is easy in the HexEdit Recent File Dialog.  Just select the file or files and click the "Remove" button.

You can also have HexEdit automatically remove files from the list is they no longer exists on disk - for example, if they have been deleted.

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