There is more to document security than just locking down documents on a SharePoint site where it is only accessible to users with the appropriate security privileges. Microsoft Word documents can hold many secrets that have embarrassed both corporations and United States Federal government agencies in the past. Technical writers should be the ones taking the lead when it comes to securing the documents they produce.
Here are some tips for adding Word document security to your writing and document release processes:
Run document inspector. If your organization deals in any kind of secure and confidential information, I recommend running Document Inspector as part of your final publishing process to ensure no hidden document data slips out with the document. Click File to open the Backstage view. Click Info. Then click Check for Issues. A drop-down menu appears. From the drop-down menu, select Inspect Document. The Inspect Document dialog box appears. The options selected by default are self-explanatory and rid your Word documents of stray comments, revisions, annotations, hidden text, and other organizational specific data that external audiences need not know.
Run accessibility. If your Word documents are subject to Section 508 or other accessibility requirements then you want to run the Accessibility checker as part of your document publishing process. Click File to open the Backstage view. Click Info. Then click Check for Issues. A drop-down menu appears. From the drop-down menu, select Check Accessibility to run the Accessibility Checker.
Check compatibility. If your project team is spread across different versions of Microsoft Office then if you are authoring documents using Microsoft Word 2010 it is smart to check document compatibility prior to sending the document to team members using Word 2007 or earlier editions. Click File to open the Backstage view. Click Info. Then click Check for Issues. A drop-down menu appears. From the drop-down menu, select Check Compatibility. The Compatibility Checker runs and produces a report about the document alerting you to any document features not compatible with previous versions of Word.
Set document permissions. Setting document permissions can quickly turn into a management mess unless you have a central point of contact or gatekeeper for setting document permissions over the documents your organization releases. Click File to open the Backstage view. Click Info. Click Protect Document. A drop-down list appears. From the drop-down list, select one of the following permissions: Mark as Final; Encrypt with Password; Restrict Editing; Restrict Permission by People; or Add a Digital Signature. Like I said, document permissions can get dicey if you don’t manage them so if it is something you want in your organization’s documents it is best to document your use of them in your overall document development or project processes.
Save and send documents as PDFs. On a previous contract, when my love/hate relationship with Word drifted decidedly into the hate column, I put a moratorium on sending any documents outside the group in MS Word format. Word 2010 makes sending PDFs a lot easier. Click File to open the Backstage view. Click Save and Send. Under File Types, click Create PDF/XPS Document. Click Create PDF/XPS. The Publish as PDF or XPS dialog box appears. You can also send PDFs via email, by clicking Send as PDF under Send Using E mail. This option attaches a PDF copy of your document directly to a blank Outlook email.
Is document security part of your final publishing process for Word documents?