Avoiding Metadata Problems in Word

   Updated 4/15/04

       If you send Word documents to clients or opposing counsel, an enterprising recipient may be able to read hidden data (called "metadata.")  For example, deleted paragraphs or comments may remain in the file, even though you cannot see them on the surface of the final document.

      You can minimize metadata with a couple of simple steps when you are working in Word.  First, avoid the "Fast Save" feature.  This feature shortens the time it takes to save documents.  Unfortunately, "Fast Save" keeps not only the new version of your document, but also the old version and a record of all of the changes that you made.  To avoid this feature, go to "Tools," click "Options," and under the "Save" tab, be sure that there is no check in the box for "Allow Fast Saves."

      Another solution is to avoid the "Track Changes" feature whenever you can.  Finally, you can check for hidden text under the "Tools" feature.  Choose "Options," then "View," then "Display Hidden Text."  You then should be able to see and delete much of the unwanted text in your document. 

      Microsoft says, of course, that the best solution is to upgrade to Word 2004 when it is released.  The company also recently announced an add-in that it says will remove metadata from
Word 2003/XP®.  For people using earlier programs,  Microsoft has posted complicated suggestions on its website for  Word 97®, Word 2000®, and Word 2002®.

       Third-pArty vendors offer programs that more easily scrub metadata from Word documents.  Most law firms use Workshare Protect, Doc Scrubber™, iScrub™, or Metadata Assistant.  We have not been able to locate any utilities that work with Macintosh versions of Word.

       The final, and safest, option is to convert all Word documents to PDF before them sending them out of the office.  
Adobe Acrobat® is the top-of-the line program, but is a bit expensive.   Other programs offer fewer features, but also cost less money.

Macintosh users have the advantage here, because the most recent operating system, OS X, has built-in capacity to convert almost any document to PDF.  

       Windows users can choose from programs such as  PDF Camp, RoboPDF™,Win2PDF™, or pdfFactory.    Ghostview is freeware, but requires some technical skills.

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