Difference between 'Pickup where you left off' and GoBack 'Shift + F5'.

Microsoft Word’s ‘Pickup where you left off’ or ‘Welcome back’ message is different from the Shift+F5 shortcut.

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All the recent talk about the ‘Pickup where you left off’ feature in Word had a few Office-Watch.com readers asking how it’s different from the long-standing GoBack shortcut in Word – Shift + F5.

GoBack Shift + F5

GoBack or Shift + F5 has been around for many versions of Word. Shift + F5 takes you back to the last three edit points (as opposed to reading locations) in the document. It doesn’t just work when you open the document, but anytime the document is opened.

It works by dropping some usually hidden (but documented) bookmarks into the document. Bookmarks PrevSel1 and PrevSel2 are quietly added to the document as you make changes. Shift + F5 moves you between those bookmarks and the current edit location. It’s simple, well documented and available to VBA programmers.

‘Pickup where you left off’ was new in Word 2013. It offers to take you to the last place you were reading in the document when last opened, but only for a few seconds before the little flag disappears. It’s quite limited, mostly undocumented and not available to VBA programmers.


Disappointingly, the reading location isn’t saved within the document itself. Instead it’s saved in the Windows Registry or saved to OneDrive and other computers.

Microsoft did this so the new feature would work with many document types, not just the Open Office XML documents. It doesn’t require a save of the document on close since the reading location is saved separately. That may be valid reasoning but doesn’t excuse the writing of user details to the registry and cloud without disclosure. There should be a way for users to edit or clear the reading location information or turn the feature off, but there isn’t.