Workshare: Infographic - What Is Hidden In Your Word Documents?

What makes up a Word document?

Ever wondered just what makes up a Word document? 

You're a normal person, so the answer to this is probably "No, I haven't".

Now, we're not saying you need to become geeks like us and get all content crazy. But a healthy interest in how your documents get created and therefore what elements can appear within a Word document (without you even know it), could prevent a data loss event and potential reputational damage.

Creating hidden metadata

When you start working on a Word document, it starts creating metadata. Information that is relevant to the document and which can be very useful. Metadata can however reveal more than you ever intended if it's left in the document when shared. 

You don't want to see all this detail when you're writing words on a page, so the metadata gets hidden within the file and more often than not forgotten about. 

Hidden metadata might range from built in properties that contain details about the file and help identify it, including title, subject, author and so on, through to Smart tags, which are used to identify and provide context for particular text in the file, such as a person's name. 

Sharing and reviewing

When Word documents are shared and reviewed by multiple parties, the volume of metadata increases. For example, new text may be added to the file, but the original is kept in case the author wants to reject these changes. Authorship notes are also added to show who has reviewed the document and what their contribution was.

It’s very easy to turn off the marked-up version, because that can make it easier to read. If the mark ups are turned off and the file is shared again, all those contributions, notes, critiques and other edits can quickly be retrieved and become a source of embarrassment or data loss.

The anatomy of a document

So far, we’ve outline just a few of the ways in which metadata is created in Word documents - there are quite a lot more!

In this infographic, you can see all the different metadata elements (26 in total) that can become part of the contents of your Word document.

We’ve outlined both what each of the elements are and how they might pose a risk to data security. You can access the full infographic by clicking into the picture below (or the link above).

metadata infographic

How to remove metadata

Workshare has a simple, handy way to remove hidden metadata from Word documents. It can be done automatically, according to policy, or selectively to give you maximum control. Check out this article on how to remove metadata from Word documents.

The good news is, you can also remove metadata from Excel and PowerPoint files using Workshare too. The solution integrates with Document Management Systems and Outlook, so when sharing or sending emails you can prevent data loss and protect yourself from embarrassing errors.

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