Disable Recent Files in Unity in Ubuntu 12.04

I just upgraded my machine from Xubuntu 11.10 to Ubuntu 12.04, so I thought it is time to try Unity out.
After a day, I found that, in Unity dashboard, there is a recent-files box showing ALL THE FILES I opened.

This is BAD.

I don't like anyone to see what I have opened. A possible scenario would be I have to show other people how to do something, either locally or remotely, and they could see what I have opened (meaning the "files" I have in my machine.) I will not have any privacy at all.

I searched and found that the "recent-files" list is stored in a file named "recently-used.xbel" under "/home/YOURUSERNAME/.local/share/"
Example content of the file:
<xbel version="1.0" xmlns:bookmark="" xmlns:mime="">
<bookmark added="2012-05-07T03:55:02Z" href="file:///home/anidear/Pictures/Screenshot%20from%202012-05-07%2010%3A54%3A50.png" modified="2012-05-07T03:55:02Z" visited="2012-05-07T03:55:02.049049Z">
      <metadata owner="">
        <mime:mime-type type="image/png">
          <bookmark:application count="1" exec="'eog %u'" modified="2012-05-07T03:55:02Z" name="GNOME Screenshot">

A way to empty the list is to empty the file(or delete it with "rm"), to empty the file use this command:
echo -n > ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel

This can be made into a shell script and to make it clickable whenever one needs to clean the history.
Or put the script in startup application list to clean it every time the machine starts.

** There is also an old trick for Ubuntu <12.04 to make a directory named "recently-used.xbel" in its place, instead of a file. Unfortunately, someone said it doesn't work with the new Ubuntu (I also haven't tested that yet).

Above method will just deal with the history storage, we did not touch the application that do the "logging" yet.
The logging application is called "zeitgeist-daemon" running in the background.
It might be possible to remove Zeitgeist-daemon from your system, on this page suggest that you could do these command both in order to get rid of it.
sudo apt-get --purge remove zeitgeist
sudo apt-get autoremove
Although, there is another way to disable or configure(if you just want partial of it to enabled.)_It is to use "Activity Log Manager".

** in this blog, it seems that Activity Log Manager owned its place in "System->Privacy". Although, I couldn't find it there. So, I installed it manually.

To install and use Activity Log Manager:
sudo apt-get install activity-log-manager

The application will launched and it looks like this:

on the first page, you can choose when to delete the logged activities, or manually delete it.
There is also a switch at the bottom to enable/disable the activity logging program(zeitgeist).

On the second tab, you'll see more option to configure for file-opened logging. You can discard logging on specific file types, or discard logging files from a specific folder.

On the third tab, there is application-level configuration. Meaning, it will ignore logging for the application you have put in this list.

After finish configuring, close the Activity Log Manager, logout, and login again. Now it'll log only what you want it to log and show only that to Unity dashboard.

** Actually, Zeitgeist is still logging EVERYTHING and put it into ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel but it just does not show on Unity dashboard. Therefore, it's good to clean the file once in a while.



  1. sudo apt-get --purge remove zeitgeist
    sudo apt-get autoremove

    those commands are works, "recently used files" are gone
    thank u AniDear

  2. I've deleted ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel and created a folder with exactly the same name. I't works... no more logging

  3. Here is another permanent solution. Edit recently-used.xbel to make sure it is empty, or just keep the files you want in there. Then save and open terminal.

    Type this

    sudo chattr +i ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel

    this will lock the file, so that even root cannot edit it.

    Works for me, I hope it works for you.