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Removing Hidden Information from Microsoft Office Files

Overview

You may not be aware that your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files often contain hidden or personal information, such as revisions or comments, that others can access. Depending on the nature of the information, this could place you in an embarrassing or compromising position. It could even potentially put the University at legal risk.

For example, during the discovery phase in a lawsuit, electronic copies of relevant documents could be subpoenaed. Any hidden comments or revisions in these documents could then possibly be used as evidence.

Examples of hidden or personal information that are stored in Office documents include:

  • Tracked changes, comments, annotations, and versions, even if not displayed
  • Hidden text or data cells
  • Presentation notes
  • Previously deleted text
  • Name of author and person who last modified the file

To protect any sensitive information from accidentally being made public, Computer Services recommends that you get into the habit of removing this information before distributing final electronic copies of your documents. There are some simple ways to do this, as described below.

Office 2013 (PC)

Perform the following steps each time you plan to distribute a final electronic copy of a Word document:

  1. Open the document.
  2. Click the File tab. With Info highlighted on the left, you will see the file properties on the right that show, for example, the author of the file.
  3. Click the Check for Issues box and then Inspect Document. The Document Inspector window appears as follows. Note that the options will vary slightly, depending on whether you are using Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
  4. If you are using Microsoft Word, select at a minimum, the following options:
         - Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations
         - Document Properties and Personal Information
         - Invisible Content (You will need to scroll down to see this.)
         - Hidden Text (You will need to scroll down to see this.)
  5. Click Inspect.
  6. The system will search for items that pertain to the categories you selected. If it finds any items, you will be prompted to remove them. Click Remove All to delete the information.
  7. To finish, click Close.
  8. If you are prompted to save the document changes when you close the file, click Save.

Office 2010 (PC)

Perform the following steps each time you plan to distribute a final electronic copy of a Word document:

  1. Open the document.
  2. Click the File tab and then click on Info so you see three panels. On the right-hand panel, you will see the file properties that show, for example, the author of the file.
  3. In the center panel, click the Check for Issues button next to Prepare for Sharing. Then click Inspect Document. The Document Inspector window appears as follows. Note that the options will vary slightly, depending on whether you are using Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
  4. If you are using Microsoft Word, select at a minimum, the following options:
         - Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations
         - Document Properties and Personal Information
         - Invisible Content
         - Hidden Text
  5. Click Inspect.
  6. The system will search for items that pertain to the categories you selected. If it finds any items, you will be prompted to remove them. Click Remove All to delete the information.
  7. To finish, click Close.
  8. If you are prompted to save the document changes when you close the file, click Save.

Office 2016 (Mac)

Perform the following steps each time you plan to distribute a final electronic copy of a Word document:

  1. Click the Review tab.
  2. Select All Markup.
  3. Click Markup Options.
  4. At a minimum, make sure a check mark appears next to each of the following items:
         - Comments
         - Insertions and Deletions   
         - Formatting
    Also highlight Reviewers and make sure all All is selected.
         - All Reviewers
  5. Perform one of the following:
    Action Description
    Accept all changes in the document Click the down arrow next to Accept and select Accept All Changes or Accept All Changes and Stop Tracking.
    Review each change Click the Next or Previous icons. Then click the down arrow next to Accept and select Accept and Move to Next or Accept This Change or click the down arrow next to Reject and select Reject and Move to Next or Reject Change.
    Reject all changes in the document Click the down arrow next to Reject and select Reject All Changes or Reject All Changes and Stop Tracking.
  6. In the Comments section of the toolbar, perform one of the following:
    Action Description
    Delete all comments Click the Next or Previous icons. Then click the down arrow next to Delete and select Delete All Comments in Document.
    Review each comment before deleting it Click Next or Previous. Then click Delete.
  7. When finished, click the File menu and select Save.
  8. To see the information associated with the file, you can click on File and then Properties

Office 2011 (Mac)

A. Perform the following steps each time you plan to distribute a final electronic copy of a Word document:

  1. Click the Review tab.
  2. In the Tracking group, click Final Showing Markup.
  3. Click Show Markup.
  4. At a minimum, make sure a check mark appears next to each of the following items:
         - Comments
         - Insertions and Deletions   
         - Formatting
    Also highlight Reviewers and make sure all All Reviewers is selected.
         - All Reviewers
  5. In the Changes section of the Review tab, perform one of the following:
         - To accept all changes in the document, click the down arrow next to Accept and select Accept All Changes in Document.
         - To review each change, click Next or Previous. Then click the down arrow next to Accept or Reject and select Accept/Reject and Move to Next or Accept/Reject Change.
         - To reject all changes in the document, click the down arrow next to Reject and select Reject All Changes in Document.
  6. In the Comments section of the toolbar, perform one of the following:
         - To delete all comments, click Next or Previous. Then click the down arrow next to Delete and select Delete All Comments in Document.
         - To review each comment before deleting it, click Next or Previous. Then click Delete.
  7. When finished, click the File menu and select Save.

B. To see the information associated with the file, you can click on File and then Properties. As a final catch all, when you are ready to share an electronic copy of a completed Word or Excel document:

  1. Open the document.
  2. Click the Word or Excel menu and select Preferences.
  3. Click Security.
  4. Under Privacy Options, select Remove personal information from this file on save.
  5. Click OK.
  6. If you are prompted to save the document changes when you close the file, click on Save.