What is metadata?
Most Word documents contain hidden metadata that shows the history of the document. Metadata is data about the document or file that is embedded within the file's details. That data shows when the document was first created, who authored the document, total editing time, and the last time the document was modified.
Metadata can contain sensitive content. If the document was edited in Track Changes, comments and revisions may still be accessible, even though you have turned off Track Changes.
In a legal setting, absolute anonymity within documents presented in a case becomes even more critical. Thankfully, there are a number of tools available online and within the most common text editing programs that will allow you to quickly and easily remove evidence of metadata and track changes within Word documents.
Save as PDF
If you are sharing a document that does not need to be edited or revised, save it as a PDF before sharing.
The PDF will not show hidden metadata.
To save your Word document as a PDF on a Windows PC:
- From the File menu, select Save As...
- Under File Name, use the Save as Type menu to choose PDF.
- This will not overwrite your original Word document, but will create a PDF copy that you can distribute without having to worry about present metadata.
To save your Word document as a PDF on a Mac:
- Use the File menu to choose Save As
- Then, set the Format to be PDF.
- If you choose Print and look at the bottom of the print menu, you will also see a Save as PDF option.
Word Document in Windows
Removing any metadata from your Microsoft Word documents is very simple. All you need to do it run Word's internal Document Inspector, and let it analyze your documents for any fragmented or hidden information you wish to remove.
- To find the Document Inspector, click on the File tab, then open the dropdown menu under the Check for Issues in the Prepare for Sharing box. Select the first option: Inspect Document.
- Check each element of your document you would like inspected, then click Inspect at the bottom of the box.
- The Document Inspector will run. When it's finished, it will show you a summary of any elements in your document that returned metadata. To remove these elements, click the Remove All option. You also have the option to Reinspect as many times as you wish.
- If you have been sharing your document or using Track Changes, you'll need to make a few changes there as well. To do this, open the File tab, and select Options. Options will open a new window, from which you will click Trust Center. Under Trust Center, click the button for Trust Center Settings.
- In Trust Center Settings, click on Privacy Options on the right, then check Warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains track changes or comments. Checking this box will make Word remind you to run the Document Inspector whenever you have information in your file that might be hidden by Track Changes. You can also open the Document Inspector from this window.
Word Document on Mac
Scrubbing metadata was simplified in the current version of Word 2016 for Mac. For instructions on how to download Office 2016, pleas review the Office 365 article. Remove metadata from a Word document in macOS by using the short process below.
- Navigate to Tools > Protect Document.
- Click the box to Remove personal information from this file on save.
- Once you have saved the document, the personal information will be removed.