Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

The importance of knowing your PR tools

We all know the Internet has created a host of new challenges in terms of how we communicate.  But sometimes we forget that technology that pre-dates the Internet can also cause us problems.

What about Microsoft Word for example?

The G2B Group points to a story in the New Scientist which reveals that an AT&T researcher has been able to take random Microsoft Word documents off the Internet and in a relatively straight forward process uncover deleted information and comments.

Of course that’s the hard way.

There’s a far more sinister mistake people often make in Word documents, which is forgetting to delete “Tracked Comments”.  Instead of removing them, users often just click the option to not show the comments on screen or in the printed document.

The problem is when that document is sent to someone, they can easily re-enable the comments.

Let me give you two examples.

In the past year I recieved a draft contract from a supplier in Microsoft Word document.  I checked the mark-ups – I do this as a matter of course now – and low and behold there were all the comments from people in the supplier’s company, including their negotiation strategy!

In a more public example, Alcatel published a press release in Microsoft Word format on their website which included a range of damaging internal comments. Read more about it here.

So, the AT&T research gives us another reason not to use Word documents in external collaborative projects.  Furthermore, you should never post Word documents online.  Use good ‘ole HTML which doesn’t include all this additional information.

The first thing I do when I get a Word document is to click on “Tools” “Track Changes” and then reveal any changes.  If you have to send a Word document, that should be the last thing you do before you hit send.  Either that or preferably send a Text or HTML document!

Written by Tom Murphy

August 18, 2003 at 8:19 am

Posted in General

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