Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents stores hidden personal information, comments, revisions, etc. that you may not want to share with anyone. Depending on the kind of information, these hidden metadata could be embarrassing or even put you in legal risk. Imagine you are working on a document collaborating with your partner and finally wants to send this document to your client. You wouldn’t want your client to see the kind of information you and your partner may have shared on the same document. Even though, those information you share may not be visible on the screen or in the print outs, those information is hidden in the document and can easily be retrieved by your client, if they want to.
In this article, we will see how we can remove such hidden information from a Microsoft Word Document before sharing it electronically and save yourself from embarrassment.
Types of Hidden Information MS Word Stores in a Document
There are various types of hidden metadata and personal information that MS Word documents store in every document you create. Others can retrieve such information from a document, even though it may be invisible. Following are some of the hidden data usually present in a document:
- Document Properties and Personal Information – These are metadata which includes the name of the author, subject, title, create and last modified time, person who last modified the document, template name, email headers, send-for-review information, etc.
- Comments, Revision marks, Tracked Changes and Annotations – These are data that Word stores in a document when you collaborate with other people. This is very useful to identify the people who worked on the document and the changes made by them.
- Headers, Footers and Watermarks – The header and footer information and watermarks you may have added to the document.
- Hidden Texts – Texts that are formatted as hidden in a document.
- Server Information – If your document was saved on a server in your network, it may contain information about this server, such as the server location.
- Custom XML – Used when you want to add additional hidden information to a Word document.
Removing Hidden Data and Personal Information from Word Documents
There are many ways to remove hidden data and personal information from a Word document. We are going to look at the easiest method which is built right into MS Word itself – Document Inspector. This tool basically scans through document and look for hidden data and personal information which I mentioned earlier and let you decide which one you want to remove. Before you proceed, you may want to save a copy of the document before removing the hidden data as you may not be able to restore once these data is removed. To remove hidden data and information:
Open the Word document you want to inspect for hidden data and personal information | Click on File tab | Click Info | Check for Issues | Inspect Document (Office 2010)
Click on File tab | Click Info | Prepare | Inspect Document
Select what kind of hidden data and personal information you want to look for and remove
Click Inspect | Document Inspector will now display all those information | Review the result and remove whichever the information you don’t want to share.
As an additional measure after removing all personal information and hidden texts, you can save your Word document as PDF from Word.
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