Volume 18, Number 4
June 2001

Metadata

How to Make Sure Your Files Don’t Contain Extra Information

If you ever send contracts, settlement proposals, or other documents to clients, opposing counsel, or others via e-mail attachment, look out! Your electronic files may include "metadata"—previous drafts, revisions, and even comments meant for exclusively internal use. The metadata associated with your documents may contain confidential or privileged information. It may also include information damaging to your position in the matter at hand.

In addition to basic information such as your name, initials, firm name, names of previous authors, and where the file was saved, the metadata may include "redline" revisions in the document, hidden text, and comments. This article tells you how you can protect yourself from metadata issues in Microsoft Word and WordPerfect.

 

Metadata and WordPerfect

By Dora L. Pontow

 

WordPerfect’s hidden or attach issues for a document concentrate in three areas: (1) Undo/Redo History; (2) Feature Codes for Comments, Highlighted Text, or Hidden Text; and (3) Optional Features of Document Summary, Versions, and Comparing a document.

The Undo/Redo History allows you to undo a change made within a set number of changes. Go to Edit, and then Undo/Redo History, to find the tracking window for these changes. The Options button on this window gives the user two options: to set the number of Undo/Redo items and to save the Undo/Redo History with the document. WordPerfect defaults to ten Undo/Redo items, although nearly 300 are possible. I think WordPerfect wisely sets the default to ten—I have trouble remembering them, so, for me, 300 would be overkill. The ability to save the Undo/Redo History with the document depends on whether the box has been checked. If the box has a checkmark, the program saves the history with and links it to the document. That information then stays (and travels) with the document. Whoever opens the document will have access to the information, if they know how to look for it. If you don’t have this box checked, WordPerfect "dumps" or deletes the history as it saves the document.

Feature Codes

Comments are electronic messages stored as a code within a document. Comments can transmit information from one user to another or store alternative paragraphs for future use. To prevent comments from traveling with the document, simply delete them by executing a Find and Replace; Find "[Comment]" and Replace with "."

Highlight refers to WordPerfect’s yellow marker feature. Users can Highlight text for a quick visual reference when scrolling through a document. Lawyers often use the Highlight feature in form documents to indicate variable information. You can turn the Highlight feature off temporarily by unchecking Tools/Highlight/Print/Show. Highlighting does travel with a document. To remove highlights completely, select the entire document and choose Tools/Highlight/Remove, which deletes the code for highlighting. That prevents the Highlight markings from traveling with the document.

You can display Hidden Text (text you can see that does not print) by clicking View/Hidden Text. This adds a checkmark next to Hidden Text on the drop-down menu. Repeating that step removes the checkmark and hides the text again. If you want to type in hidden text, click Format/Font and check Hidden; then type the text. Hidden codes will appear around the text. To permanently remove the Hidden code, delete the codes.

A solution to removing Undo/Redo History and other feature codes such as Comments, Highlight, and Hidden Text is to create a macro and execute it before sending or sharing a document electronically. A macro can be written to uncheck the undo/redo history, change the number of items to zero, find and replace all comments with nothing, remove all highlighting from the document, and delete the hidden codes.

Optional Features

Document Summary. This optional feature summarizes specific properties of the document. If you decide to use this optional feature, the user can decide what information appears in the Summary. Under File/Properties, Summary Tab, Setup button, select what information will appear on the Document Summary window. Note: this information will follow the document if the Document Summary feature is used. To prevent the creation of a Document Summary that may include sensitive information, go to Tools/Settings/Summary and make sure the Create Summary option is not checked. You can also change the Properties to include only items of information that may not be considered sensitive, such as Creation Date.

Versions is an optional feature requiring special selection during the original installation from the Corel CD. If you did not install this feature, you do not have to worry about any "associated" versions of the document. If you installed the feature, you can circumvent it by copying the document to a new location; the copy in the new location will not include information respecting earlier versions.

The Comparing feature compares a revised document to an original document and creates a third document that contains all the changes as redlining and strikeout codes. If you send the revised document as an attachment to someone, you do not need to worry about the changes made to the document. The revised document is just that—a separate document in which no changes were tracked or hidden in the text. There is no way to "see" the changes unless you have the original document.

To run Compare, the document with the edited changes can be on the screen. File/Document/Compare uses two documents—the current document (with the changes) against the Original document (browse to the document on your system).

You are able to set the types of Insertions and Deletions to be used for the new text and deleted text. The Settings button allows the user to customize the attributes of the Insertions and the Deletions. It is even possible to exclude portions of text from the Compare or put special characters around the redline or strikeout text. WordPerfect Version 8 and 9 and the legal versions allow for this customization.

 

Dora L. Pontow is Legal Systems Consultant for MicroLaw, specializing in training lawyers and their staff in WordPerfect and Worldox. She can be reached via e-mail at dpontow@Microlaw.com

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