How to Remove Hidden Personal Data in Microsoft Office
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Every time you send a document to a colleague, you save it, you proofread it, correct any spelling and/or grammatical mistakes, and send it. It is a great habit to get into, and can certainly save time and energy down the line, if your work is consistently accurate. Editors will love you (won’t they?!). But what about the other information we might unwittingly provide when we send a document?

Microsoft Office Which Office Suite Is Best for You? Which Office Suite Is Best for You? You'll be pressed to find an occupation that doesn't require word or number processing of some sort. And you may wonder, is Microsoft Office really the best solution? Here are your options. Read More creates and maintains a metadata file attached to your document. Each time you send it, your details are passed forward to the recipient, and anybody else that document moves forward to. This is okay in certain situations, but at other times it can be handy to clean your documents of any personal data before releasing them into the wild.

Let’s take a quick look at how to scrub your documents using the Document Inspector feature 10 Hidden Features of Microsoft Word That'll Make Your Life Easier 10 Hidden Features of Microsoft Word That'll Make Your Life Easier Microsoft Word wouldn't be the tool it is without its productive features. Here are several features that can help you every day. Read More of Microsoft Office.

What Types of Information Are We Talking Here?

Microsoft Office automatically stores several types of personal information, along with some other forms of hidden data. The data isn’t immediately obvious. It isn’t displayed alongside your document; we’re going to have to root it out. Office documents can contain the following forms of information:

  • Comments, revision marks from tracked changes The 20 Best Apps for Students to Get Through a Day of School The 20 Best Apps for Students to Get Through a Day of School Whether you're in high school or college, these awesome apps should be at the top of your back-to-school to-do list! Read More , versions, and ink annotations. If you’ve collaborated on your document, it is likely to contain revision marks, comments, and more from your working process. These snippets can enable other people to see who else has worked on the document, as well as the changes they have made.
  • Document properties and personal information. Document properties refer to the document metadata, such as author, subject, and title. The document properties are largely just information Office automatically generates and maintains each time you work with a document. It can also include information relating to specific features you use with a document. For instance, email headers What Can You Learn From An Email Header (Metadata)? What Can You Learn From An Email Header (Metadata)? Did you ever get an e-mail and really wondered where it came from? Who sent it? How could they have known who you are? Surprisingly a lot of that information can be from from the... Read More , routing slips, printer paths, and file-path information are all common.
  • Headers, footers, and watermarks. Word documents and Excel workbooks can contain information in headers and footers. Equally, watermarks can be added and hidden.
  • Hidden text. Word documents can contain hidden text. That is, content that has been formatted as hidden text. If you’re unsure, the Document Inspector can search for it.
  • Hidden rows, columns, and worksheets. In the same sense as a Word document, Excel workbooks can contain their own hidden content.
  • Invisible content. Excel workbooks and PowerPoint presentations can contain items 7 Tips for Creating Professional PowerPoint Templates 7 Tips for Creating Professional PowerPoint Templates Nobody benefits from a boring PowerPoint presentation. Use these tips to make sure your efforts always grab their audience. Read More formatted as invisible objects. The Document Inspector can locate them for you.
  • Off-slide content. PowerPoint presentations can also contain content or objects that are not visible because they have been dragged off the side of the slide. This happens to a wide range of objects, including art, text boxes, buttons, and graphics.
  • Presentation notes. If you’re using all of the PowerPoint functions 10 Creative Ways to Use PowerPoint for Self-Growth 10 Creative Ways to Use PowerPoint for Self-Growth Think outside the box. Demolish the fact that PowerPoint is just a boring presentation tool. Let's find ten creative uses for it. Read More , you might add fastidiously taken notes to your presentation. You also might not want to send those onto anyone else, or have them appear during your big presentation moment.
  • Document server properties. The document may contain additional document properties if you use a Document Workspace site, or a library based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint services.
  • Custom XML data. Your document may contain hidden XML data; the Document Inspector can find and remove it.

Obviously, this is only an issue if you deem it one. The majority of individuals creating and sending documents using Microsoft Office shouldn’t have any problems with the information created alongside their work. If you do need to rid yourself of any of the aforementioned information, read on!

The Document Inspector

The Document Inspector 10 Default Microsoft Word Settings You Can Optimize 10 Default Microsoft Word Settings You Can Optimize A few simple optimization steps can amplify your productivity with Microsoft Word. We give you ten quick and easy settings for your everyday tasks. Read More is an amalgam of all of the different inspector services available to Microsoft Office. Their main functions are to locate and remove any additional data from your documents. Before using the Document Inspector, save your current document.

Once that’s done, head to File > Info. You’ll be presented with a screen akin to this:

Microsoft Word 2013 Document Information

On the right-hand side you can see some of the information generated by Microsoft Office: pages, amount of editing time, myself as the author. To remove this, head to Check for issues > Inspect document. You’ll then arrive at the Document Inspector options panel. Check the options you require, followed by Inspect. Depending on the size of your document, this could take a moment.

Microsoft Word 2013 inspect document

Once the Document Inspector has done its job, you’ll be able to remove any found hidden data. Look down the document list. Press Remove all on the sections you wish to clear.

Microsoft Word 2013 Document Inspector

Once you have cleaned the hidden information from your document, you can save it. Try reopening it and scanning again to ensure all the data has been removed. Otherwise, you should now be clear of any identifying information you may have unintentionally sent on.

Microsoft Word 2013 Document Inspector Remove Button

N.B: In Office 2007 the Document Inspector can be found by heading to Office Button > Prepare > Inspect Document > Inspect. Make sure you save your work before making any alterations.

Can I Stop It from Happening?

Yes – but it is a document specific setting, meaning you’ll have to apply the setting to each document you create. To prevent Office from saving the metadata with each document, head to File > Options > Trust Center > Privacy Options. Under Document-specific settings, check Remove personal information from file properties on save.

Microsoft Word 2013 Save metadata settings

As mentioned, this will stop the metadata from your current document being saved, but you will have to apply it again next time around.

Document Inspector Roundup

There are a massive number of reasons to remove personal information from an Office file, be that a PowerPoint presentation, Excel workbook, or Word document. As Office 2016 has introduced collaborative 11 Frequently Asked Office 2016 Questions Answered 11 Frequently Asked Office 2016 Questions Answered Office 2016 is looming and raises many questions. Do you have to buy a subscription, can you upgrade now, and can you go back to Office 2013? We compiled frequently asked questions and provide the... Read More tools, it may become increasingly important to clean up our important documents before sending them.

At the very least, consider where your document might end up, and the information it is unwittingly providing to the next person.

Do you regularly scrub your documents? What’s your reason for cleaning them up? Let us know below!

Explore more about: Digital Document, Metadata, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word.

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  1. Manny
    January 21, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    You can always use a tool that will do this very well: