Clearing Recent Documents on Windows XP

You know what I’ve always found very annoying on Windows XP? The simple task of clearing recent documents. Here is one very simple example of how the user experience could be immensely improved with little effort. As many of you know, on the Start Menu in Windows XP, there’s a “Recent Documents” pullout menu that lists recent docs and images that you’ve opened. Well, it takes several clicks to clear this menu, which is unnecessarily complicated.

You have to:

  1. Open the Start Menu
  2. Find an empty area and right click
  3. Click Properties
  4. Click “Customize” next to “Start menu”
  5. Click on the “Advanced” tab
  6. Click “Clear list” near the bottom right

That’s a lot of steps to complete a simple task. What Microsoft really should have done in this case was just add a link at the bottom of the Recent Documents list, below a separator, labelled as “Clear List”. That way you can clear the list right then and there when you view the Recent Documents menu. Instead of having to click through 6 times through various windows and tabs. I suspect a lot of people don’t even know how to clear their Recent Documents list. They probably just right click and delete each doc listed one-by-one.

Also, for whatever reason, it takes forever to clear the list. Note that the Recent Documents list is just made up of shortcuts to the actual documents. Yet on my PC, with a Q6600 quad-core, overclocked to 3.2 GHz CPU with 2 GB of RAM, the hourglass appears for about 3 seconds before the operation is completed. It’s surprising that such a simple task takes that long. Deleting a bunch of shortcuts is not a resource-intensive operation. It should be instantaneous. I really don’t understand why there’s such a noticeable lag when clearing the Recent Documents list.

I don’t know how it is in Vista, but this is one obvious example of poor user experience design in Windows XP.

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