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Don’t Get Caught Out: Check Your PDFs For Metadata!

29 Dec 2008 | | No Comment

It’s an easy mistake to make: you create a Word document, write a green paper, convert it to PDF and then publish it on your company’s website. A customer then downloads the green paper and happens to have a look at the document’s properties. Oops! In a moment of boredom, while writing the green paper, you had distracted yourself by writing a humorous comment in the properties section of the Word document, thinking that the comment would be removed when the Word document was converted to PDF. The customer, who coincidentally provides the company with a lot of business, doesn’t find the comment particularly humorous — and neither does your (soon to be former) boss.

You’re probably thinking a lot of things at the moment, but I hope that one of them is: how can I avoid being this person?

Well there is a few ways. Perhaps the best place to start when dealing with metadata is atConvert Document Information option in Acrobat PDF Maker. the source: the Word document. The case might be that you have no need to include metadata in the PDF that’s going to be published on your companies website, in which case, you should turn off the feature in your PDF conversion program that carries the metadata from the Word document into the PDF. Take note that not all PDF converters include the feature that copies the metadata from the Word document to the PDF document, so in some cases you don’t have to worry about this. If you’re an Acrobat user however, you do need to be vigilant as the feature is turned on by default. If you don’t want the metadata converted with the Word document then you should go to the preferences section of the Acrobat add-on for Microsoft Word and disable the ‘Convert Document Information’ option under settings. This will ensure that any “humorous” comments won’t be retained in a freshly converted PDF.

But what if you’ve already created the PDF, how do you remove the metadata? In Acrobat this is pretty easy. Simply open the PDF and either use the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + D) or go to ‘File > Properties’ and click on the ‘Description’ tab to view the documents metadata (make sure you also click on the ‘Advanced Metadata’ button to view any additional hidden details). Remove the information from the metadata fields and click on the ‘OK’ button.

Examine Document feature in Acrobat Removing the metadata by going into the document properties section and manually deleting it is pretty simple, but actually Acrobat provides an even easier, and more comprehensive, way of quickly removing all metadata from a document and also ensuring that other sensitive (and possibly hidden) information is not missed. All you need to do is click on the ‘Document’ menu in Acrobat and then select the ‘Examine Document’ item. Acrobat will then automatically examine your document for any document information and provide you with a list of potential problems (note: it’s only a problem if you don’t it to be there, some of the info that is picked up could have been intentionally placed there by you). After that all you have to decide is what information you would like to remove and then click on the ‘Remove all checked items’ button and voila: your PDF is clean.

It’s a little bit of extra work, sure, but it will keep your job safe.

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