I’ve written before about securing Microsoft Word documents in the Windows world. It’s an important but often overlooked step of the publications process especially if you produce any kind of sensitive documents. However, what about document security if you are using Microsoft Word 2011 on the Mac?
There is a lot of stuff lurking beneath Word documents that can pose security and privacy risks like author information, metadata, track changes, and comments.
Here are some options for securing your Word documents on the Mac:
Protect Document. While some corporate cultures may consider it obnoxious, using Protect Document to lock down a Word document is a good practice to follow if you post documents like white papers to the web or in documents like proposals that get sent outside of your corporate walls. Click Word. The Word menu appears. Click Preferences. The Preferences dialog box appears. Underneath the Personal Settings section, click Security. The Security Preferences dialog box appears. In the Security Options section, you have the option to control opening the document via a password or requiring an author to enter a password before they get the permissions to modify the document. The password(s) you set here are document specific so I recommend you are very careful at assigning and even documenting passwords inside your team and organization. It can be so frustrating to open up an old document that is password protected and then find out nobody in the office has the password and the original author is no longer with the company.
Select Read Only Recommended. From the Security Options section, you can also check Read Only Recommended to set a dialog box when the document opens prompting the user to open it in Read-Only format locking them out from editing/modifying a document because they won’t be able to save the changes. I recommend selecting Read Only for documents like press releases or white papers that go out to external audiences
Set Privacy Options. Word documents include far more information than what you see on the page – author information, revisions, and track changes. There are plenty tales out there about companies and federal government agencies that had information slip out in their documents that had no business being in the public domain. Word 2011 includes Privacy options to prevent releasing such information. Select Remove personal information from this file on save to remove author information from the document when you save it. Select Warn before printing, saving, or sending a file that contains track changes or comments to give yourself a warning before potentially sending a document that contains this extra information.
Set Macro Security. Macros can be a force for good or evil when it comes to Microsoft Word documents. Select Warn before opening a file that contains macros as another level of security when you open documents you receive from outside your organization.
Securing your Word documents takes just a few extra steps that can save you as the author and your organization from a world of embarrassment.
Do you secure your Microsoft Word documents?