Do You Know What’s Hiding in Your Documents?

Most people who share electronic versions of their Microsoft Office documents don’t realize that there is often much more in those files than they think. There is a whole host of metadata that can be embedded in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files beyond just the words, numbers and images you normally see.  What kinds of things?

Office files can have hidden data and personal information such as:

  • Comments, revision marks from tracked changes, versions, and ink annotations
    This information can enable other people to see the names of people who worked on your document, comments from reviewers, and changes that were made to your document.
  • Document properties and personal information
    Document properties often include details about your document like author, subject, and title. Document properties also include information that is automatically maintained by Office programs, such as the name of the person who most recently saved a document and the date when a document was created. If you used specific features, your document might also contain additional kinds of personally identifiable information (PII), such as e-mail headers, send-for-review information, routing slips, and template names.
  • Hidden text Word documents can contain text that is formatted as hidden text.

So know that you know what might be in your documents, you’re probably wondering how you can get rid of it all. That’s where the Document Inspector comes in.

Document Inspector

If you plan to share an electronic copy of a Microsoft Office document with clients or colleagues, it is a good idea to review the document for hidden data or personal information that might be stored in the document itself which can reveal details about your organization or about the document itself that you might not want to share publicly.


How to clean hidden information from your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files

  1. Open the document that you want to inspect for hidden data and personal information.
  2. Click the File tab, click Save As, and then type a name in the File name box to save a copy of your original document.

    IMPORTANT   It is a good idea to use the Document Inspector on a copy of your original document, because it is not always possible to restore the data that the Document Inspector removes.

  3. In the copy of your original document, click the File tab, and then click Info.
  4. Under Prepare for Sharing, click Check for Issues, and then click Inspect Document.
  5. In the Document Inspector dialog box, select the check boxes to choose the types of hidden content that you want to be inspected.
  6. Click Inspect.
  7. Review the results of the inspection in the Document Inspector dialog box.
  8. Click Remove All next to the inspection results for the types of hidden content that you want to remove from your document.

For more details check out this support article from Microsoft.

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