I keep a lot of documents (ODF and OOXML both) on a pen drive. These end up in the recent files list, which then takes several seconds to open.
If I remove the pen drive, the recent files list opens up instantly.
What operating system or Linux distro + DE are you using?
This happened on SLED 11R3 with GNOME 2.28.
I also use Ubuntu 12.04 in a similar manner with Unity, and I don't have this problem there.
Ok so SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. Have you tried with version 12 of the distro? Have you contacted their support assuming you are entitled to it?
Ah, nevermind. It was the Symantec antivirus that stopped the process for a "quick" live check. Disabling it solved the problem.
Sorry for the noise.