Find and remove metadata (hidden information) in your legal documents

Legal professionals are familiar with the concept of "discovery" and the requirements set out by the courts for complying with discovery demands. They also understand that they are only required to provide the documents and data set out in the discovery demand. Unfortunately, if you are providing electronic versions of your documents, you may "discover" that you are inadvertently supplying more information than you realize.


Whenever you create, open, or save a document in Microsoft Word, the document may store information — known as metadata — that you had no intention of including or disclosing (this also applies to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft PowerPoint® files). Metadata is used for a variety of legitimate purposes, and it adds functionality to the editing, viewing, filing, and retrieving capabilities of Microsoft Office. However, if some of this information is passed on to inappropriate parties (for example, opposing counsel), that disclosure can create adverse consequences for you and your client. In order to avoid these consequences, you should make yourself familiar with the types of metadata contained in your documents and take steps to remove it whenever necessary.

Some metadata is readily accessible through the user interface of each Office program. Other metadata is only accessible through extraordinary means, such as opening a document in a low-level, binary file editor.

Some examples of metadata that may be stored in your documents

  • Your name
  • Your initials
  • Your company or organization name
  • The name of your computer
  • The name of the network server or hard disk where you saved the document
  • Other file properties and summary information
  • Non-visible portions of embedded OLE objects
  • The names of previous document authors
  • Document revisions
  • Document versions
  • Template information
  • Hidden text or cells
  • Personalized views
  • Comments

Removing metadata

The articles listed below provide information and instructions for removing metadata from your Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. Simply click the article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

  • 237361 HOW TO: Minimize Metadata in Microsoft Word 2000 Documents
  • 290945 HOW TO: Minimize Metadata in Microsoft Word 2002
  • 223789 XL: How to Minimize Metadata in Microsoft Excel Workbooks
  • 314797 PPT2000: How to Minimize Metadata in Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations
  • 314800 PPT2002: How to Minimize Metadata in Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations

 Note   The information for this article was taken from Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 223396 OFF: How to Minimize Metadata in Microsoft Office Documents.

More information

Applies to:
Excel 2003, PowerPoint 2003, Word 2003