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How To Disable Recent Documents in Unity on Ubuntu

Ubuntu 7

Ubuntu’s Unity interface, by default, keeps a record of your recently accessed documents. While this feature can be useful for quick access, there might be times when you want to disable it for privacy reasons. In this article, we will guide you through the process of disabling recent documents in Unity on Ubuntu.

Quick Answer

To disable recent documents in Unity on Ubuntu, you can navigate to System Settings and select Privacy. From there, you can turn off the button next to "Record Activity" to stop Zeitgeist from tracking your recent documents. Alternatively, you can use the terminal to rename the ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel file and create an empty folder with the same name.

Understanding Ubuntu’s Unity Interface

Ubuntu’s Unity is a graphical shell for the GNOME desktop environment. It is designed to be simple and easy to use, with a focus on efficiency and functionality. One of its features is the tracking and display of recently opened files, which can be accessed from the Unity Dash.

Disabling Recent Documents

The process of disabling recent documents varies depending on the version of Ubuntu you are using. Below are the steps for different versions:

Ubuntu 12.04

  1. Navigate to System Settings and select Privacy.
  2. Turn off the button next to Record Activity. This will stop Zeitgeist, the service responsible for logging your activities, from tracking your recent documents.

Ubuntu 11.10

For Ubuntu 11.10, you can use a PPA (Personal Package Archive) provided by Manish Sinha. This PPA provides an updated version of activity-log-manager that can help solve the issue. To add this PPA to your system, open the terminal and type the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:zeitgeist/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

The add-apt-repository command adds the PPA to your system. The apt-get update command updates your system’s package list, and apt-get upgrade upgrades all upgradable packages.

However, please note that it is generally recommended to upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu for better compatibility and features.

Ubuntu 12.10 and Later Versions

For Ubuntu 12.10 and later versions, follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Settings, then Privacy.
  2. Choose the Files tab.
  3. Here, you can disable video recording and specify which folders should not be recorded.

Disabling Recent Documents for a Specific User Account

If you want to disable recent documents for a specific user account, you can create a separate user account for presentations. This will provide an isolated environment without any accidental keystrokes or displayed files from previous presentations.

Disabling Recent Documents Using Terminal

Another solution is to rename the ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel file and create an empty folder with the same name. This can be done by executing the following commands in the terminal:

mv ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel--
mkdir ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel

The mv command moves or renames files, and the mkdir command creates a new directory. In this case, we are renaming the recently-used.xbel file and creating a new directory with the same name. This effectively disables the recent documents feature.


Disabling recent documents in Unity on Ubuntu can be done in a few simple steps, depending on the version of Ubuntu you are using. Whether you are doing it for privacy reasons or to create a clean environment for presentations, this guide should help you accomplish your goal. Remember to always keep your system updated for better compatibility and access to new features.

Can I disable recent documents in Unity on Ubuntu for all user accounts?

Yes, you can disable recent documents for all user accounts by following the steps mentioned in the article. However, please note that these steps need to be performed for each individual user account.

Will disabling recent documents affect other features of Unity on Ubuntu?

Disabling recent documents will only affect the display and tracking of recently accessed documents. Other features of Unity on Ubuntu will remain unaffected.

Can I re-enable recent documents after disabling them?

Yes, you can re-enable recent documents by following the same steps mentioned in the article and turning on the relevant options in the Privacy settings.

Will disabling recent documents improve the performance of my system?

Disabling recent documents may slightly improve the performance of your system by reducing the amount of data being tracked and displayed. However, the impact on performance is usually minimal and may not be noticeable in most cases.

Are there any alternatives to disabling recent documents?

Yes, if you don’t want to disable recent documents entirely, you can manually clear the list of recent documents from the Unity Dash. Right-click on an item in the list and select "Clear Recent History" to remove specific entries.

Can I disable recent documents in other Ubuntu desktop environments?

The process mentioned in this article is specifically for Ubuntu’s Unity interface. If you are using a different desktop environment, the steps may vary. It is recommended to refer to the documentation or support resources specific to your desktop environment for instructions on disabling recent documents.

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