How do I disable the tracking and display of recently opened files (and whatever else is remembered) in a default installation of Ubuntu? (This question originally concerned 11.10, but now that I'm on 12.04, that's the answer I've selected.)

(Note that this is not a duplicate of How can I keep recent files from appearing in Unity?, since that question and its answers are concerned with temporary and specific filtering. I want to disable it completely for a single user account.)

Okay, to deflect the inevitable and expand on my motivation...

While trawling the usual forums and Google results for a solution, it (unsurprisingly) seems that the near-universal use cases for this request are either browsing porn or Warhammer research. And the obvious solution to this is to create another user account to contain all evidence.

However, this is not why I'm asking, and I don't say that to get all high and mighty about it, it's because this answer won't help. (Even though I really don't have any interest in Warhammer, and I have no idea how that paint pot and brush ended up in my drawer, no that's not glue on my thumb, etc.)

My actual use case is that I use my personal laptop for presentations in different circles of my life. I have a user account set up with all the settings I like for presentations (shortcuts, small launcher, default associations, etc). But I don't want an accidental keystroke (or the find dialog) to display other recent presentations I've given, or the files I used in composing the presentation, or whatever. I also don't want to have to recreate this profile for every single presentation I might give. I just want a nice little isolated, memoryless, clean corner of my notebook for public display.

  • 2
    It's often helpful to say why you want things, since there can be better ways of accomplishing it, or things you'll loose that you weren't aware of, etc. Jan 4, 2012 at 11:30
  • @Jo-ErlendSchinstad - yes indeed, I was just editing for that purpose :)
    – detly
    Jan 4, 2012 at 11:33
  • You need to follow @jokerdino suggestion and use "All History" and click Delete. Now the history should not be shown in Unity Mar 21, 2012 at 6:41
  • @ManishSinha - yes, I'll try that when 12.04 is released and I'm prepared to use it. Until then, unless there's an answer for 11.10, I can't accept it.
    – detly
    Mar 21, 2012 at 7:38
  • 1
    @ManishSinha - clearing history was not the issue, stopping all logging was. 0.8.0 didn't do that (despite appearances), but your recent updates to the Zeitgeist PPA seem to have fixed whatever problem was causing that.
    – detly
    Mar 22, 2012 at 0:43

6 Answers 6


Go to System Settings and choose Privacy.

Then, turn off the button next to Record Activity. Now, your recent documents will no longer be logged by Zeitgeist.

System Settings Privacy Manager in Ubuntu 12.04

  • I'll have to wait until I'm ready to use 12.04. Hopefully they'll have fixed whatever issues Activity Monitor currently has.
    – detly
    Feb 19, 2012 at 9:57
  • Your instructions for 11.10 should include using the PPA mentioned by @Manish Sinha — following these instructions for the activity-log-manager available in the official repos was the first thing I tried, and it never worked. It only seems to work now with the updated libraries.
    – detly
    Mar 22, 2012 at 0:42
  • @detly I can't quite tell which PPA you used that helped you solve the problem. Perhaps, you can edit the answer and add that part yourself?
    – jokerdino
    Mar 28, 2012 at 9:23
  • Sorry, it doesn't actually seem to work after all. Also, what version of activity-log-manager do you have installed in that first screenshot? Mine has no "Recent items" tab, nor a "Delete history" button; just a "History" tab and a calendar based deletion that doesn't really work.
    – detly
    Apr 2, 2012 at 23:38
  • 3
    Finally got to try it, and yes, it does work in 12.04 :)
    – detly
    Sep 2, 2012 at 7:06

I found this solution in the ubuntuforums at comment #3, but don't know if it works. Give it a try:


  • I've already tried the recently-used.xbel thing without success, but I'll try the Activity Monitor approach.
    – detly
    Jan 4, 2012 at 12:07
  • Hmm, disabling logging in the Activity Monitor doesn't seem to make any difference. (This is simply by clicking the big button at the bottom right of the dialog.)
    – detly
    Jan 4, 2012 at 13:34

for whatever documents you don't wish to see under the recent documents tab; do the following :

  1. Make sure you keep all such files in a folder.
  2. After accessing it every time, just rename the folder.

just by renaming the folder you will see the magic working :)


rename ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel file (for example recently-used.xbel--) and create an empty folder and name it recently-used.xbel in same folder. That is all.


You can disable video recording at settings, privacy, files. You can also tell Ubuntu which folders shouldn't be recorded.


if you have upgraded to 12.10 already, do this:

go to: System Setting/Privacy/Files

then tick: Video and Image

check if it helps in case you still want your txt and docs activity to be available.

EDIT: Also, even better is to use the option "Don't record activity in the following folders:" what is the best customization I can see :), may be it is time to upgrade to 12.10 :D

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