Word and the anonymous commentator

A friend in the editing business recently passed along this Microsoft Word head-scratcher.

I’m working on a project where a Microsoft Word 2008 document is being passed from person to person. I received the article last night for a final pass and discovered that all the tracked changes and comments were now attributed to “Author” instead of the people who made the changes. Some of those comments and changes were mine and had my name attached to them the last time I saw the document. What happened?

From the sound of it, the last person who worked on the document enabled a security setting that stripped the document of personal information. Specifically, that person opened Word’s preferences, clicked the Security preference, and enabled the Remove Personal Information From This File On Save option. When you enable that option and save the document, the option is as good as its Word and does exactly what it suggests—it strips out all the names associated with changes and comments and replaces them with a generic “Author.” In the process it also removes the date and time stamp from those changes and makes each change and comment the same color.

Secure though it may be, enabling this option can wreak all kinds of havoc as the loss of the author names and the date and time stamps makes it impossible to trace changes and comments back to their source. Invoke the option and the electronic “paper trail” is gone.

It’s for this reason that it takes some work to do this. The option’s not on by default and when it’s switched on, it applies only to the active document. Switch to a different document and open that Security preference and you’ll discover that the option is disabled.

If the loss of this information has proven to be more than a little inconvenient for you, I suggest you contact the person who last had the document and ask if they have an earlier version that they can update without switching on this option. During that conversation you might also stress that enabling an option like this is a decision best left to the last person tasked with touching a document.

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