More notes from “The Office Guy” …

If you’re like most Microsoft Office users, you work on many different files in many different applications that are stored in many different locations. You might start your day working in an Excel file that is stored on your own PC, then edit a Word document that you accessed from OneDrive, then jump into a PowerPoint presentation stored on a SharePoint site and so on.

After a while, it starts to get tricky to remember where a particular file you need to work with is located. So for a long time most Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) applications have offered a list of Most Recently Used (MRU) files.  The location and functionality of these MRU lists has changed over the many different versions that Microsoft has put out over the last 20 years, but the concept has always remained the same – if you need to get to a file that you’ve worked with recently, it would be just a couple of clicks away if the shortcut to the file’s location was in your MRU list even if you didn’t remember where the file was stored.

No matter which version of Office you were using, the basic principle behind how any MRU list works has remained the same: “First-In, Last-Out”. To get a file into an MRU list, the file had to be opened in its application, then closed when you were done working with it. The MRU list would put the last file that you had work with at the top (“First-In”) of the MRU list. Then as other files were opened and closed in an application, a given file in the MRU list would get pushed down the MRU list until the list had reached its capacity. When a file was at the bottom of the MRU list, it would get pushed off the list (“Last-Out”). Over the years the capacity of how many files were stored in an MRU list has expanded, and the concept of “pinning” a document so it remains anchored in the MRU list was introduced back in 2007. However, MRU lists were always application specific (you’d only see Word files in Word MRU’s and so on).

But, I’m not here this month to give you a history lesson about MRU lists. In Office 2016, the MRU concept has been extended into Outlook when you need to attach a file to an E-mail, Calendar appointment or Meeting Invitation. And, the MRU list in Outlook is not application specific, it will store document shortcuts from multiple applications.

So, how does this work and what will the screens look like?

First, you’d need to be in Outlook and be in the process of creating a new email (or any other Outlook item that allows you to attach a file such as a Calendar appointment or Meeting request). And, just as you have for many years, you’d need to click the Attach File command button (the button that has the paper-clip icon):


But in any and all versions of Outlook (before 2016) you would then see the Insert File dialog box pictured below:


And of course at this point you would have to remember where on your PC, Network or Cloud location of the folder where you stored the document and browse to find it.

But now, in Outlook 2016 when you click the Attach File button, you get your own personal MRU list:


Note that the contents of the MRU list are not confined to a particular application, this is an MRU list based on whatever you’ve been working on in the recent past regardless of the application involved. The files in the MRU are listed in the reverse order in which you accessed the files (“First-In, Last-Out”).

This MRU list will store up to 12 Recently Used document shortcuts, and these document shortcuts cannot be “pinned” permanently to the list. Please also note that if the desired file is not in the MRU list, commands are provided on the bottom of the menu to let you browse other locations.

But the big idea is that you’re often attaching files to messages that you’ve recently worked on and now you can save a lot of time trying to find those files. And, if like most Outlook users you attach files to messages several times a day this represents a cumulative large savings of your valuable time.

As I’ve said before, sometimes there may not be major changes in any application as it evolves from one version to the next, but sometimes it is the addition of little things end up making a big difference in your productivity.