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Prepare Your Word Document for Mass Distribution

This guest article was written by Askar, the geek behind the DemoGeek tech site.

If you work on a team or when you are dealing with your customers you might want to make sure that you distribute your documents the right way so that the information in the document reaches the right audience and the confidentiality of the information is respected.

Word 2007 has a feature with which you can formally prepare your Word document for proper distribution to a group of people or even to any individuals with certain credibility factor.

Preparation

Launch Word 2007 and create the document the way you want.

Once you are happy with the document and are ready to distribute, pause for a moment before hitting the email application and follow these simple steps to get the document ready for distribution. Keep in mind that these steps are isolated and what that means is you can pick and choose the steps that you wanted to follow.

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Click on the Office Button and click on the “Prepare” menu option. There are 7 different options you should be able to see. I’ll explain each of those options so you can pick and choose the right combination of options for your distribution requirements.

Document Properties

The first in the list is the “Properties’ option with which you can enter metadata information about the document.

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You can enter the name of the document author, title, subject, keywords, category, status and comments.

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Some of these can be viewed through the File >> Properties dialog.

Keep in mind that once you finalize the document you won’t be able to see these properties but until then you can associate properties with your document for others to get an idea of the document before opening it.

Inspect Document

The second option in the list is the “Inspect Document” option. As part of the preparation to distribute your document you can inspect the document for comments, revisions, revision marks, ink annotation. You can inspect for hidden metadata or any personal information that’s been saved with the document. You can inspect for any custom XML data that’s been stored with the document. You can also inspect for any information on headers, footers and for any watermarks. Finally, you can also inspect for any hidden texts in the document.

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Choose the inspection options you wanted to make sure before you distribute the document and when you hit the “Inspect” button Word will inspect the document and will notify you of any items that it finds on its inspection.

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The items that need your attention would be marked with an exclamation mark and you can choose to re-inspect if you want.

Encrypt Document

Third in the list is the “Encrypt Document” option. Choose this option if you want the document to be viewed only by certain people you trust. It allows you to encrypt the document with a password of your choice and the users have to enter this password to view the document.

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Choose a password that you can distribute to the group. My advice is to not choose a password that you personally use but rather a password which no one can use it to trace back to your online accounts or any sensitive accounts that you use personally.

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Confirm the password one more time. Passwords are case-sensitive and make sure to preserve/remember the password as there is no way to recover the password if you forget and there is no way to open the file if you forget the password.

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Once encrypted you should be able to see that the menu option has a little background color to indicate that this document is encrypted.

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When people on your distribution group try to open an encrypted document they’ll be prompted to enter a password.

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Without a password they won’t be able to open the document at all.

Restrict Permission

Fourth on the list is the “Restrict Permission” option. You can use the “Restrict Permission” option to restrict what people can do with the document. If the document is sensitive then you can use “Restrict Permissions” to restrict them from editing, copying and printing the document.

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Restrict Permission uses Windows Rights Management client to implement the restrictions.

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You might be prompted to install the Windows Rights Management tool. Don’t worry, go ahead and install it, it is from the trusted source. Once installed you should be able to configure what people can do with the document.

Add a Digital Signature

Fifth in the list is the “Add a Digital Signature” option. Digital Signatures ensure the integrity of the document. Think of Digital Signatures as a paper signature but done electronically for convenience. When a document has digital signature it signifies the integrity and trust of the document. This would come in handy if you are distributing the document to a very large group of audience.

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Click on the “Add a Digital Signature” option and Word will prompt you with the above dialog to search for Digital Signature providers on Office Marketplace.

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On its Office Online Marketplace you should be able to find a Digital Signature provider that you can use to sign the document.

Run Compatibility Checker

Let’s skip the to the last option “Run Compatibility Checker” first. If you have used any features that are specific to Word 2007 and if you suspect your audience might be using older versions of Word then you might want to run the Compatibility Checker to make sure your document can be read by the entire audience.

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Word 2007 will run a set of predefined compatibility checks and if it finds any compatibility issues it will list them on the above dialog, if not you are good to move to the final step before distributing the document.

Mark as Final

This should be the last step you wanted to follow before you distribute the document to the group. As the name indicates this action will mark the document as all set for distribution.

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As this makes significant changes to the document you’ll be prompted to make sure you want to mark the document as final.

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Once a document is marked as Final the document cannot be edited and will be cleaned of any proof readings, comments etc.

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Finalized Documents get a new icon on the status bar that looks more of like a rubberstamp on a paper.

Getting a document prepared for distribution can help you avoid certain obvious mistakes that you make when you distribute a document to a large group of people. You don’t have to follow all the steps; rather you can pick and choose which one you want/prefer. Word 2007 is flexible enough to do what you ask it to do when preparing a document for distribution.

I hope you find this useful and I hope you make use of Word 2007’s capability to properly finalize a document before distribution. If you have any questions or comments please let me know in comments.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/13/09

Comments (4)

  1. Ravi Gupta

    Awesome tips

  2. suganya

    Hi,
    I had installed windows rms client sp2 in my machine.But i don’t find Restricted permission option in Prepare menu(in office 2007).Can anyone can help me out please..

  3. samsung

    OK, I did this and removed all metadata. Now when any of the reviewers make tracked changes, it shows as anonymous (“author inserted”). How can I restore metadata so that the authors information will be stored again while doing ‘tracked’ changes?

  4. Dan

    I have created a User Manual for our product and printed hard copies for our customers. Now I have revision pages for the manual that I want to send to the customers. My problem is that my headers and footers as well as my bullet numbers want to change when I cut and paste these revised pages into a single document for distribution.

    How can I copy my revised pages for distribution and keep their same format?

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