How do I... remove the built-in icons from the Office My Places bar?

This information is also available as a PDF download.

As I discussed in a previous entry, the My Places bar was introduced in Office 2000. It appears on the left side of the File Open and File Save As dialog box in all Office applications. My Places offers shortcuts to frequently used folders, but customizing it isn't exactly an intuitive process.

Initially, the bar displays icons for the following Windows folders:

  • My Recent Documents
  • Desktop
  • My Documents
  • My Computer
  • My Network Places

Most of us don't use these default folders, or not all of them. Fortunately, you can add the folders you do use frequently. In the Open or Save As dialog box, select the folder you want to add from the Look In drop-down list. Then, choose Add To My Places from the Tools menu in the dialog box. To move or resize an icon in the bar, right-click on it and choose the appropriate command from the shortcut menu.

Office applications share one common My Places bar. Changes will show up in all the applications' dialogs. Note that you can't alter My Places in Office 2000, and Office XP's user interface for updating My Places is more limited than 2003's.

Removing the built-in icons

Removing custom icons from the My Places bar is simple. Right-click on the icon and choose Remove from the shortcut menu.

It isn't as easy to remove the built-in icons, which is too bad: Deleting them would free up a lot of space for shortcuts you do use. To get rid of those icons, you have to edit the registry.

As always, before you begin editing the registry, be sure you back it up. Also, while you're in the registry, don't change anything unless instructed to in the following steps:

1. From the Windows Start menu, choose Run.

2. Enter regedit and click OK to launch the Registry Editor.

3. As shown in Figure A, expand the nodes to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Common\Open Find\Places

Figure A

4. Update the version number 11.0 in the above key if appropriate. The StandardPlaces key contains the built-in icon values. UserDefinedPlaces contains custom icons. (Don't worry if you don't have a UserDefinedPlaces folder yet.)

5. Right-click on the Places key and choose Export. You're creating a backup file of the current My Places bar. If anything goes wrong, you can simply double-click the file and the Registry will automatically restore the My Places keys, using the contents of the backup file. Give the file an appropriate name and save it where you can find it later. Click Save to create the backup file.

6. In the Places or the StandardPlaces key, double-click on the key you want to disable. Doing so updates the key values to the right. If the icon you double-clicked on has a Show value, double-click on it to display the Edit DWORD Value dialog box.

7. The Value Data value will probably be 2. Replace it with 0 (zero), as shown in Figure B, and click OK.

8. After disabling all the built-in icons that you don't want to see, exit the Registry Editor.

Figure B

If the built-in icon values don't include Show, add it as follows:

1. Click on the key that represents the built-in icon you want to disable.

2. Choose New from the Edit menu and select DWORD Value. The Registry will display a new value in the pane to the right. Name it Show and press Enter.

3. Repeat steps 6 and 7 above for each key, accordingly.

The results

When you display the Open or Save As dialog box, the built-in icons will be gone, as you can see in Figure C. Figure C

Unstable My Places

The My Places user interface isn't particularly stable, so you might experience problems after adding custom shortcuts or disabling the built-in icons. Usually, you can tell that things have gone awry when the Move Up and Move Down commands are grayed out. If this happens, reboot your system. Sometimes, this clears it up. If it doesn't, and you want to shuffle your shortcuts, return to the registry and reset the Index values for each key, where 1 shifts an icon to the top, 2 positions an icon just below the first shortcut, and so on. Just remember that the custom shortcuts are in the UserDefinedPlaces key.