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Inspect and Remove Sensitive Document Properties with Document Inspector

It may come as a shock to some just how much information Microsoft collects in Document Properties during the creation of a file. This blog reveals how to inspect and remove sensitive document properties with Document Inspector. We have enough to handle just getting the document to be correct and look the way we want to present it without worrying about broadcasting sensitive data!

Office collects personal data

There are positive uses for this information and even for creating our own custom Document Properties, but we’ll cover that in a future blog as this is about protecting your information in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

If the document is not leaving your computer or office, it may not be an issue to have unexpected details revealed about the creation path and timeframe for editing, how many revisions and more. On the other hand, if this is confidential or going to another department, or worse yet, to a client or outside organization, there could be a problem Houston!

NOTE: Document Inspector tends to be an all or nothing thing. Might want to create and save a copy of the document before you inspect, remove and send, because it may remove elements that you want to keep in your original.

What Data is Collected

As you work, here is what starts to accumulate about your document and you (or the user who is working on it).

Click File tab to display the Info screen (Backstage) with the Properties of the current document (left screenshot):

Word Document Properties

Much of the data is what you would expect to see if you were looking at the file in a directory, but note there are fields such as Total Editing Time, Author, Last Modified, Last Printed (and by whom).

If you click the link for Show All Properties at the bottom of the screen, you see more information is revealed such as Company and Manager (shown on the screenshot on the right). There are also several fields where you, the user, can enter details to identify the file for searching and clarity.

Let’s go one step further…At the top of the Properties column (in either screen), click the dropdown arrow and then click Advanced Properties button:

The Advanced Properties dialog box will display with five tabs that collect different data:

  1. The General tab contains the information you would see with the Details view in a directory.
  2. The Summary tab is where you can choose to add your own information to identify and describe the document.
  3. Statistics tab contains some file details but adds personal data about the construction of the file.
  4. The Contents tab pulls document properties from fields. For example, if you added a Title in the Title tab, it will appear here.
  5. The Custom tab is where you can add properties from the list such as Department or Editor or create your own.

As mentioned, you may want to utilize these properties for various reasons but, for now, we’ll just concentrate on what Word is collecting and tracking, and how to get rid of the information, if needed.

Note: Previously you could display the Document Panel from Advanced Properties directly at the top of your document and fill in the property tags there. It was removed from Office 2016.

Review with Document Inspector

Let’s look at all the document and personal information being collected:

  • Click the File tab and ensure Info is selected.

Inspect Document screen

  • Click Inspect Document under the Check for Issues dropdown arrow.
  • The Document Inspector displays where you can choose what content to check for.
  • Leave them all checked and click the Inspect button at the bottom of the dialog box.

Document Inspector dialog box pre-run

The same list displays again with the requested data flagged with a red exclamation mark and a list of the information found.

Document Inspector after running

Remove Hidden Data

If you want that data deleted, click the Remove All button. Click Reinspect to ensure it is gone or remove other information.

You can now send that file without fear that it is revealing your inner most document secrets, but you might want to take it one step further if the document has ever been shared, or you have cropped images! (See below).

Document Properties in Excel and PowerPoint

Both these programs use the same method for collecting data about your file but because of their diverse purposes, track some different information. You inspect and remove the same way with the Document Inspector.

Like Word, Excel and PowerPoint collect data on:
  • Comments, and Annotations
  • Document Properties and Personal Information.
  • Invisible Content
  • Custom XML Data
Excel adds:
  • Headers and Footers
  • Hidden Rows and Columns
  • Hidden Worksheets
PowerPoint adds:
  • Off-slide Content
  • Presentation Notes
 Word adds:
  • Revisions and Versions,
  • Metadata, Microsoft SharePoint properties, custom properties, and other content information.
  • Headers, Footers, and Watermarks
  • Hidden Text
  • Task Pane add-ins

How to Inspect and Remove

The same for all programs. Go to File | Info |Check for Issues | Inspect Document.  Note the list of things that will be inspected, leave them all selected and click the Inspect button.

Check Before Sending

There are some things not covered by the Document Inspector that could cause embarrassing or legal issues if the original information remained intact. Cropped images may display as you edited in the document, but the complete original image remains unless deleted. Same is true of Tracked Changes that have been edited if someone turns on All Marks.

Delete Cropped Areas of Images

  • Click on an image
  • In the Picture Tools | Format tab | Adjust group, click Compress Pictures

Compress pictures and delete cropped areas

  • Ensure there is NO checkmark in Apply only to this picture.
  • Ensure there IS a checkmark in Delete cropped areas of pictures.
  • Click OK.

Remove Tracked Changes

Accept or reject tracked changes to remove them from your document:

  • To look at each revision one at a time, on the Review tab, click Next in the Changes group, and then Accept or Reject.

Use Ribbon to remove tracked changes

Word keeps or removes the change and then moves to the next tracked change.

  • To accept all the changes at the same time, click the arrow below Accept, and then click Accept All Changes.
  • To reject all the changes at the same time, click the arrow below Reject, and then click Reject All Changes.

IMPORTANT:  Choosing the No Markup view helps you see what the final document will look like, but it only hides tracked changes temporarily. The changes are not deleted, and they’ll appear again the next time someone opens the document. To delete the tracked changes permanently, you’ll need to accept or reject them.

Whew! Now your clean and lean document can be sent without all that hidden data. If you want more information on security for your Office files, see the related blogs…

http://gaylelarson.com/word-document-protection/

http://gaylelarson.com/delete-personal-content-from-public-computers/

Have you had any surprise experiences with sharing sensitive information? Let me know in the Comments.