Remove hidden data and personal information from Office documents

Before you share an important document with colleagues or clients, you probably take the precaution of proofreading or reviewing the contents of the document to ensure that everything is correct and the document does not contain anything you do not want to share with other people. If you plan to share an electronic copy of a Microsoft Office document, it is a good idea to take the extra step of reviewing the document for hidden data or personal information that might be stored in the document itself or in the document properties (metadata (metadata: Data that describes other data. For example, the words in a document are data; the word count is an example of metadata.)). Because this hidden information can reveal details about your organization or about the document itself that you might not want to share publicly, you might want to remove this hidden information before you share the document with other people.

This article explains how the Document Inspector feature in Microsoft Office Word 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 can help you find and remove hidden data and personal information in your Office documents.

In this article


What types of hidden data and personal information are stored in Office documents?

Several types of hidden data and personal information can be saved in an Office document. This information might not be immediately visible when you view the document in an Office program, but it might be possible for other people to view or retrieve the information.

Hidden information can include the data that Office programs add to a file to enable you to collaborate on writing and editing a document with other people. It can also include information that you deliberately designate as hidden.

Office documents can contain the following types of hidden data and personal information:

  • Comments, revision marks from tracked changes, versions, and ink annotations    If you collaborated with other people to create your document, your document might contain items such as revision marks from tracked changes, comments, ink annotations, or versions. This information can enable other people to see the names of people who worked on your document, comments from reviewers, and changes that were made to your document.
  • Document properties and personal information    Document properties, also known as metadata (metadata: Data that describes other data. For example, the words in a document are data; the word count is an example of metadata.), include details about your document such as author, subject, and title. Document properties also include information that is automatically maintained by Office programs, such as the name of the person who most recently saved a document and the date when a document was created. If you used specific features, your document might also contain additional kinds of personally identifiable information (PII) (personally identifiable information (PII): Any information that can be used to identify a person, such as a name, address, e-mail address, government ID, IP address, or any unique identifier associated with PII in another program.), such as e-mail headers, send-for-review information, routing slips, printer paths, and file path information for publishing Web pages.
  • Headers, footers, and watermarks    Word documents and Excel workbooks can contain information in headers and footers. Additionally, you might have added a watermark to your Word document.
  • Hidden text    Word documents can contain text that is formatted as hidden text. If you do not know whether your document contains hidden text, you can use the Document Inspector to search for it.
  • Hidden rows, columns, and worksheets    In an Excel workbook, rows, columns, and entire worksheets can be hidden. If you distribute a copy of a workbook that contains hidden rows, columns, or worksheets, other people might unhide these row, columns, or worksheets and view the data that they contain.
  • Invisible content    PowerPoint presentations and Excel workbooks can contain objects that are not visible because they are formatted as invisible.
  • Off-slide content    PowerPoint presentations can contain objects that are not immediately visible because they were dragged off the slide into the off-slide area. This off-slide content can include text boxes, clip art, graphics, and tables.
  • Presentation notes    The Notes section of a PowerPoint presentation can contain text that you might not want to share publicly, especially if the notes were written solely for the use of the person who is delivering the presentation.
  • Document server properties    If your document was saved to a location on a document management server, such as a Document Workspace site or a library based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services, the document might contain additional document properties or information related to this server location.
  • Custom XML data    Documents can contain custom XML data that is not visible in the document itself. The Document Inspector can find and remove this XML data.

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What information can the Document Inspector find and remove?

The Document Inspector includes several different Inspectors that you can use to find and remove different kinds of hidden data and personal information. Some of these Inspectors are specific to individual Office programs. The Document Inspector displays different sets of Inspectors in Office Word 2007, Office Excel 2007, and Office PowerPoint 2007 to enable you to find and remove hidden data and personal information that is specific to each of these programs.

To learn more about what types of hidden data and personal information the Document Inspector can find and remove in a specific Microsoft Office program, review the tables below.

 Note   If your organization customized the Document Inspector by adding Inspector modules, you might be able to check your documents for additional types of information.

Office Word 2007

Inspector name Finds and removes
Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations
  • Comments
  • Revision marks from tracked changes
  • Document version information
  • Ink annotations
Document Properties and Personal Information
  • Document properties, including information from the Summary, Statistics, and Custom tabs of the Document Properties dialog box
  • E-mail headers
  • Routing slips
  • Send-for-review information
  • Document server properties
  • Document Management Policy information
  • Content type information
  • Databinding link information for databound fields (last value is converted to text)
  • User name
  • Template name
Headers and Footers
  • Information in document headers
  • Information in document footers
  • Watermarks
Hidden Text
  • Text that is formatted as hidden (a font effect that is available in the Font dialog box)

 Note   This Inspector cannot detect text that was hidden by other methods (for example, white text on a white background).

Custom XML Data
  • Custom XML data that might be stored within a document

Office Excel 2007

Inspector name Finds and removes
Comments and Annotations
  • Comments
  • Ink annotations
Document Properties and Personal Information
  • Document properties, including information from the Summary, Statistics, and Custom tabs of the Document Properties dialog box
  • E-mail headers
  • Routing slips
  • Send-for-review information
  • Document server properties
  • Document Management Policy information
  • Content type information
  • User name
  • Printer path information
  • Scenario comments
  • File path for publishing Web pages
  • Comments for defined names and table names
  • Inactive external data connections
Headers and Footers
  • Information in worksheet headers
  • Information in worksheet footers
Hidden Rows and Columns
  • Hidden rows
  • Hidden columns that contain data

 Notes 

  • If there are hidden columns in your workbook that do not contain data and they are located between columns that do contain data, these empty hidden columns will also be detected and removed.
  • If the hidden rows or columns in your workbook contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook by removing them. If you do not know what information the hidden rows or columns contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden rows or columns, and then review their contents.
  • This Inspector does not detect shapes, charts, controls, Microsoft ActiveX objects and controls, pictures, or SmartArt graphics that might be located in hidden columns.
Hidden Worksheets
  • Hidden worksheets

 Note   If the hidden worksheets in your workbook contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook by removing them. If you do not know what information the hidden worksheets contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden worksheets, and then review their contents.

Custom XML Data
  • Custom XML data that might be stored within a workbook
Invisible Content
  • Objects that are not visible because they are formatted as invisible

 Note   This Inspector does not detect objects that are covered by other objects.

Office PowerPoint 2007

Inspector name Finds and removes
Comments and Annotations
  • Comments
  • Ink annotations
Document Properties and Personal Information
  • Document properties, including information from the Summary, Statistics, and Custom tabs of the Document Properties dialog box
  • E-mail headers
  • Routing slips
  • Send-for-review information
  • Document server properties
  • Document Management Policy information
  • Content type information
  • File path for publishing Web pages
Invisible On-Slide Content
  • Objects that are not visible because they are formatted as invisible

 Note   This Inspector does not detect objects that are covered by other objects.

Off-Slide Content
  • Content or objects that are not immediately visible in a presentation because they are located outside the slide area, including:
    • Clip art
    • Text boxes
    • Graphics
    • Tables

 Note   The Document Inspector does not detect or remove off-slide objects with animation effects.

Presentation Notes
  • Text that was added to the Notes section of a presentation

 Note   The Document Inspector cannot remove pictures that are added to the Notes section of a presentation.

Custom XML Data
  • Custom XML data that might be stored within a presentation

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How do I find and remove hidden data and personal information in my Office documents?

You can use the Document Inspector to find and remove hidden data and personal information in Office documents that were created in Office Word 2007, Office Excel 2007, Office PowerPoint 2007, and earlier versions of these Office programs. It is a good idea to use the Document Inspector before you share an electronic copy of your Office document, such as in an e-mail attachment.

  1. Open the Office document that you want to inspect for hidden data or personal information.
  2. Click the Microsoft Office ButtonButton image, click Save As, and then type a name in the File name box to save a copy of your original document.

 Important   It is a good idea to use the Document Inspector on a copy of your original document because it is not always possible to restore the data that the Document Inspector removes.

  1. In the copy of your original document, click the Microsoft Office ButtonButton image, point to Prepare, and then click Inspect Document.
  2. In the Document Inspector dialog box, select the check boxes to choose the types of hidden content that you want to be inspected. For more information about the individual Inspectors, see What information can the Document Inspector find and remove?
  3. Click Inspect.
  4. Review the results of the inspection in the Document Inspector dialog box.
  5. Click Remove All next to the inspection results for the types of hidden content that you want to remove from your document.

 Important   

  • If you remove hidden content from your document, you might not be able to restore it by clicking Undo.
  • The inspectors for Comments and Annotations, Document Properties and Personal Information, and Headers and Footers cannot be used in an Excel workbook that has been saved as a shared workbook (Review tab, Shared Workbook command). This is because shared workbooks use personal information to enable different people to collaborate on the same workbook. To remove this information from a shared workbook, you can copy the workbook, and then unshare it. To unshare a workbook, on the Review tab, click Shared Workbook. On the Editing tab, clear the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time check box.
  • If you want to remove hidden data and personal information from documents you save in one of the OpenDocument Formats (.odt, .ods, .odp), you must run the Document Inspector every time you save the document in one of these formats.

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Applies to:
Excel 2007, PowerPoint 2007, Word 2007