Removing Hidden Data from Documents

Sending and publishing documents electronically is commonplace. Unlike the paper version though where "what you see is what you get", electronic documents contain hidden data or metadata. Whenever you create, open, or save a document in a program like Word or WordPerfect, metadata is written to the document.

Sometimes this metadata is not information you want to share with others though. For example, your name is metadata. If you are doing a "blind" review of a paper for publication or submitting a document anonymously, you certainly do not want your name included in your document. This article tells you the kinds of metadata stored in documents generated by Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, and Adobe Acrobat, and how to remove the metadata.

Types of Metadata

The metadata stored varies from program to program. Programs like Word and WordPerfect store a lot of metadata and may include your name, your initials, your organization name, your user name, your computer's name, the network server's name or hard disk where you saved the document, the names of previous document authors, document revisions including undo/redo history, reviewers' annotations, document creation and revision dates, template information, hidden text, and comments, among other things.

Many people distribute documents in PDF format as a way to avoid sending metadata. This works for the most part but even PDF files may contain metadata like title, subject, author, key fields, and annotations. Unlike with Word and WordPerfect though, metadata gets stored in PDF files because someone puts it there.

People distributing very sensitive information may resort to sending only text versions of files. This way they are assured that there is no hidden data contained in the file.

Removing Metadata

Tools for removing metadata vary from version to version of the programs. In general, newer versions of programs make it easier to remove metadata than in older versions. Below are links to directions for removing metadata from commonly used versions of Word, WordPerfect, and Acrobat:

Microsoft Word 2000

Microsoft Word 2002

Microsoft Word 2003

Microsoft Word 2007

Corel WordPerfect

Adobe Acrobat 7 (Acrobat 8 has a built-in "Examine Document" tool for removing metadata.)




Last Revised: 4/19/2007