by Kendall Callas
A recent Wall Street Journal article* brought to light the potentially embarrassing details a detective's eye might glean from examining a word processing document file. A document printed onto paper, of course, can yield no more than its visible text. The file from which that document was printed, however, carries information besides the text of the document.
If you send a WordPerfect for Windows document via diskette or e-mail to an outside party, there are three features that might prove revealing:
Remedy: Train users to be sensitive to this issue. Emphasize use of the View, Draft command to make comments obvious; comment flags are easy to overlook when the left margin is off-screen in the View, Page default mode.
By default in WP 6.x/7/8, these reversible changes are stored along with the text in the document file, so they can be reversed even years later. Consequently, if you use WP 6.x/7/8 to produce a document file given to a client, for example, it could be examined to see what those last ten changes were, simply by using the Edit, Undo feature ten times. If the document in question was tailored from a document used previously for another client, the Undo feature might reveal data from the prior client.
This default setting was changed in WP 9: Undoable changes are not automatically saved with the document; you must select the option if you wish to do so. That means if you use WP9, your secrets are not at risk (if you left the default setting untouched).
Remedy: Set the Undo feature so that it does not save undoable changes along with the text. Check your default setting (in all versions of WordPerfect for Windows) with this command: Edit, Undo/Redo History, then click the Options button to see if Save Undo/Redo items with document is selected. By deselecting this option, you will avoid this risk, though lose some convenience.
The author name is taken from the user name entered by you, your administrator, or the installation program into WordPerfect's Environment settings. Check the user name entered in WP 8/9 under Tools, Settings, Environment; in WP 6.x/7 look under Edit, Preferences, Environment. I recommend that the user's name and initials be entered here, as they are useful in macros and helpful in tracking documents.
Remedy: Correct the creation date and author name in the Document Summary for files given to outside parties via diskette or e-mail. To do this in WP 8/9, use File, Properties; in WP 7, use File, Document, Properties; in WP 6.x, use File, Document Summary.
With just a little bit of cleanup, you can easily secure your document files to deliver only the information you intend.
* "Beware, 'Invisible Ink' Inside Computer Files May Reveal Your Secrets", Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2000
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