Microsoft Word documents can often unintentionally contain confidential or embarrassing information, because the document metadata can include tracked changes, comments and author information that you don’t want clients and partners to see.
This post is going to give an overview of some Word 2007 features you can use to ensure that documents you send outside your organization are secure and aren’t going to release any confidential information. Save your document prior to launching any of these tools.
Word 2007’s Document Inspector consolidates many of the tasks performed by a number of Office 2003 add-ins that you would have to download. Inspecting your document should fall into the tail end of your publishing cycle, just like running spelling and grammar checks and generating the Table of Contents.
Choose “Prepare,” and then “Inspect Document.” The Document Inspector dialog box launches:
This dialog box controls inspection tools you need to run to ensure the Word 2007 document you send externally is secure and devoid of any confidential information. The Inspect Document dialog box includes the following options:
- Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations. This option inspects document metadata, including comments, revision marks, annotations and versions. There are many stories floating around on the Internet about Word documents that have been released to external parties containing embarrassing comments or previous revisions that shouldn’t have seen the light of day. Consequently, you need to pay attention to the results when you run this inspection on a Word document.
- Document Properties and Personal Information. Depending on your organization’s line of business, you may not want your author name and related information going outside your firewall. If your organization is dutiful about filling out document properties and personal information then selecting Document Properties and Personal Information means that third parties won’t see this information if they explore your Word document’s metadata.
- Custom XML Data. If your organization is using an XML-based publishing system with Word documents then it is going to be important for you to inspect what custom XML data external viewers can access.
- Headers, Footers, and Watermarks. Run this inspection and you’ll discover any metadata residing in your Word document’s headers, footers, and watermarks.
- Hidden Text. Word can hide text. Use tis tool to find it and make surre it doesn’t contain confidential or embarrassing information.
Mark as Final
As a long-time Microsoft Word user and a technical writer, I was never one to mark a Word document as final electronically. However, organizations looking for a structured publishing process that doesn’t rely on a big bucks content management system could use Mark as Final as the last stop for the document.
Using Word’s document encryption can be tricky decsions, because it can become more trouble than it is worth if you don’t manage it carefully. There is nothing worse than not being able to open an important encrypted document, and if you lose a password, Word 2007 doesn’t let you recover it. However, document encryption can be a useful tool for publishers requiring document restriction for a group of select readers.
Choose “Prepare,” and then “Encrypt Document.”
In the past, when I’ve had a client request to encrypt a Word document, I always keep a written record of the password in a safe place (a password management tool would be a good choice).
Word 2007 Document Security and You
It is easy to dismiss Word document security as unnecessary because you don’t think your documents are leaking any secrets. However, instituting a policy of running Document Inspector isn’t going to add much time to your publishing cycle and potentially could save you from letting potentially embarrassing information slip out in stray metadata.
Do you run Document Inspector when finalizing your Word documents? Do you regularly encrypt Word documents?