Here's an irritation that annoys me almost every working day:

  1. I need to work from a Word or Excel (for Mac, Office 2011) document. So, I find the document on the shared server, and open it.
  2. The document and the application opens... so far, no problem...
  3. ...then, documents from my previous session open on top of the document I chose to open. The document I asked for is now buried somewhere under whatever I was working on when I last closed Word or Excel.

This always takes me by surprise because it's so different to usual application behaviour that I'm used to.

Because it's usually someone else's document I'm working from (and because it's usually first thing in the morning, and I'm really not a morning person...), I usually end up spending minutes in mild confusion looking for the content I need to work from in the wrong document, wondering why the document I just opened looks so different to how I was expecting it to look, before realising this isn't actually the document I just opened and/or remembering that Office for Mac does this.

I've found this earlier question, with some suggestions for turning Resume Previous Windows off at the OS level, or with an app-specific Apple script. If possible, however, I'd prefer to keep Resume Previous Windows on, but make sure that once the MS Office application has opened, the document I actually opened is the one that has focus, not some random* document I had open yesterday.

Is this possible? Is it possible to force MS Word 2011 and/or Excel 2011 (or all Office apps) to keep focus on the opened document when booting up after a document has been opened, without disabling Resume Previous Windows completely?

Operating system is Lion if that's relevant, and the documents are on a work MS Exchange Server the Mac is connected to.

EDIT: judging by comments, it sounds like this is a Lion thing not an Office thing. So, is there any way to keep this feature on, but make sure than whenever I open a file with an application that isn't currently running, the file I opened is the one with focus when the application starts up?

*I think it's the document that was opened first that gets focus when the app boots up. Not 100% sure though, all I know for sure is, it's usually the last document I expect.

6 Answers 6


What you want can be accomplished with Automator which comes with OS X.

  1. Open Automator from the Applications folder

  2. Choose New from the File menu or type ⌘-N and choose 'Application'

  3. Search Actions for Launch and drag Launch Application to the workflow on the right

  4. set the app to Word or whatever else you're having the problem with

  5. search Actions for 'Pause' and drag pause to the workflow, set it to however long it takes word to open for you (e.g. 5 seconds)

  6. search Actions for Open Finder Items and add that to the workflow.

  7. Save it as an Application, drag it to your dock and drag docs on to the icon for it when you want them to open on top of the previous Word docs.

N.B. you can also set all documents to open using your freshly created app, so you can just open them as usual, but then a delay will permanently be added to their opening.

  • Works! +50! Can you add a last step for the standard way to change all an application's assigned file types to another application? I know I can just right-click, 'open with', 'other', then tick 'always', but I'd have to do that for every file type and there are loads. Is there a better way that could re-assign all file types of an application at once? Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 9:30
  • 1
    Thanks! The best way built in is to select a file of the right type (e.g. doc or docx), right click get info, change 'open with' then click 'change all', but this third party app may be easier (i haven't tested it): question-defense.com/2013/01/14/…
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 13:24
  1. Quitting the app with Option + Command + Q will ensure all windows are closed, and on the next open, only the intended file will open.
  2. Go over to ~/Library/Saved Application State/ and change the permissions of your intended folder (com.microsoft.Word.savedState) to read-only.

These are essentially hacks - both tested on OS X 10.10.3 (Yosemite) and works.


Resume states for individual programs are found in /Users/username/Library/Saved Application State/

Search for com.microsoft in the list of saved states. Youll be able to see word excel powerpoint ETC.

Get the application state to how you want it and quit the program. Then, do a get info(Command + i) on the folder containing the program you want to lock and under the "general" drop down menu in the info window, click "locked". This will save the "template" of the app.

My source: if you need further instruction.

  • Sounds like that would turn off resume states completely for that application, like in the link on the answer I linked to. I might have to resort to that, but I'm hoping for a way to keep the resume states feature on but stop it plonking the resumed windows on top of the actual file that opened the application. Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 15:58

I had the same problem and here is how you fix it. This has nothing to do with any of the Mac OS.

Open word document and go to Word -> Preferences -> General and from the list uncheck the below and save the file.

Uncheck: track recently opened documents
Display: keep this as blank and press ok and you are done.


simply go to System Preferences -> General and untick "Restore windows when quitting and reopening apps"


Before closing Word or Excel (Cmd+Q), close all windows with Cmd+W - press it repeatedly - it will close all opened windows and thus documents. When reopened, no old documents will be opened and you will see and empty document or spreadsheet.

This is easy because you don't have to pay attention on what is being closed. I have a similar issue with Preview and QuickTime and this is how I fix it and now I have a tic for most apps.

  • It's interesting you say that about preview and quicktime because I also for the first time had the same thing in a non-Microsoft application (adobe indesign) - I'd thought it was a bug/'feature' of office for Mac but I'm starting to wonder if it happens in all applications. Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 16:26
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    This is a feature of OS X. Shutdown OS X with 10 open apps and 30 open windows. When it restarts, all of them will open reopen. This feature was implemented recently (I think in Lion) and most apps now implement it.
    – mist
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 18:08
  • Some apps even have versioning and don't require you to save the files. For example TextEdit.
    – mist
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 18:09
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    rather than cmd+w repeatedly you can alt-cmd-w which will close all open windows in the app, or if that is mapped to something else alt-click the close window button in the top left of any window to close all the windows in the app.
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 23:28

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