Saturday, January 22, 2005


Microsoft Word Users: Are you leaking private information?

Word is the defacto word processor. It's hard to believe that Word Perfect used to be #1, and before that, WordStar with its quirky command keys. Word is now everywhere, and those other packages are a distant memory.

If you put Word documents on the Internet, or send them to clients, bosses or other business partners, you should know about a feature of Word called Metadata.

Metadata are added to your document by Word and can be viewed using File>Properties and Tools>Track Changes.

If you have Track Changes turned on, and send a document, the recipient can see all the edits you and your colleagues made. This has led to embarrassment on more than one occasion; a UK Government department issued a document and you could see all the iterations it had been through as successive civil servants expunged all meaning and content.

File>Properties might reveal a whole bunch of stuff. Did you write a proposal based on a cool template a colleague gave you? Make sure File>Properties doesn't display your colleague's company name, instead of your own!

There's a utility available, iScrub, which removes metadata from Word documents. Disclosure: I have no connection with Esquire Innovations, and receive no revenue from this mention. A lot oflarge law firms use it, to ensure that their final opinion is the only one their client sees.

Another approach is to use Adobe Standard to convert your Word document into a PDF format file. This is a universal file format which can be read on just about any computer platform in use today. In the process of converting your document to Adobe PDF, the metadata are all removed and your client sees only the final copy (and also cannot edit it!)

There are other approaches and third party products which can create Adobe PDF files and remove metadata. Check google, and pick the one which is right for you!

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