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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, Information Technology 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 365 (Windows)

Perform the following steps each time you plan to distribute a final electronic copy of a Word, PowerPoint or Excel file. Note that these instructions do not pertain to the online versions of these programs.

Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel

  1. Save a copy of your document by clicking the File tab and selecting Save As. Then select where you want to save the file, type a name in the File Name box and click Save.
  2. In your original document, click the File tab and then click Info. You will see some of the hidden information on the right.
  3. Click the Check for Issues icon shown in a box and then click Inspect Document.
  4. In the Document Inspector window, select at a minimum, the following options:
     
    Word
         - Comments, Revisions, and Versions
         - Document Properties and Personal Information
         - Invisible Content *
         - Hidden Text *
     
    PowerPoint
         - Comments
         - Document Properties and Personal Information
         - Invisible On-Slide Content *
     
     Excel
         - Comments
         - Document Properties and Personal Information
         - Hidden Names *
         - Hidden Rows and Columns *
         - Hidden Worksheets *
         - Invisible Content *
     
    * - You will need to scroll down to see this option.
  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.

For more information, see the Microsoft support page.

Office 365 (Mac)

Perform the following steps each time you plan to distribute a final electronic copy of a Word, PowerPoint or Excel file. Note that they do not pertain to the online versions of these programs.

Microsoft Word

  1. Save a copy of your document by clicking the File tab and selecting Save As. Then select where you want to save the file, type a name in the File Name box and click Save.
  2. Click File and then click Properties. On the Summary tab, make sure to delete any information you don't want to appear, such as Author, Title and Comments. Then click OK to accept the changes.
  3. Next, click the Review tab.
  4. Select All Markup and then click Markup Options.
  5. 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.
  6. If your document contains tracked changes, 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 Previous Change or Next Change icons. For each change, click Accept or Reject.
    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.
  7. If your document contains comments, perform one of the following:
    Action Description
    Delete all comments In the Comments section of the toolbar, click the down arrow next to Delete and select Delete All Comments in Document.
    Review each comment before deleting it In the Comments section of the toolbar, click the Previous or Next icons. Then click Delete.
  8. When finished, click the File menu and select Save.

PowerPoint and Excel

  1. Save a copy of your document by clicking the File tab and selecting Save As. Then select where you want to save the file, type a name in the File Name box and click Save.
  2. Click File and then click Properties. On the Summary tab, make sure to delete any information you don't want to appear, such as Author, Title and Comments. Then click OK to accept the changes.
  3. When finished, click the File menu and select Save.