Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing

This chapter is from the book

Storing Extra Details About Your Documents

The NTFS file system in Windows Vista and Windows XP keeps track of a few essential details about each file: its size, when it was created, and when you last modified it, for example. You can see all these standard details when you open Windows Explorer. So what happens when you save a document using an Office program? You get the option to store extra details called properties; these categorized bits of information include the author's name, a title and a subject for the file, and comments or keywords you can use to search for documents later. If you're an obsessive organizer, you can open a Custom properties sheet for any document and keep track of more than two dozen built-in categories or add your own. In addition, if you use Windows Vista, you can store freeform details called tags, which you can use for sorting, grouping, and searching any Office file type.

Some properties are filled in automatically by Office, but to really take advantage of this feature you need to go a little bit out of your way and fill in extra details for every document with which you work. Why should you bother?

  • It helps you find stuff later—When you use the Windows search tools (or those offered by third-party developers), you can search for any property of any Office file. If you've trained yourself to enter details about a project or assignment in the Properties dialog box, it's trivially easy to locate all the files associated with that activity.
  • It helps you keep projects organized—In Windows Explorer's Details view, you can add columns for many Office file properties. For example, in a folder filled with Word documents, right-click any column heading to display a list of available columns, and then click Title and Author to add those fields to the display. That way, you can scan through a list and see more than just the filename. (You can do the same with Search results.)
  • It lets you reuse data—You can look up file properties in any document and then use those values in fields and in macros. Using fields, you can automatically fill in data within a document based on the values you enter in the Properties dialog box.

For more ideas and techniques using VBA, see Chapter 26, "Using Macros to Automate Routine Tasks," p. 721.

To view and edit the properties of a file currently open in an Office program, click the Office button, choose Prepare, and click Properties. This opens the Document Information Panel, which appears below the Ribbon and above the editing window, as shown in Figure 3.7.

Figure 3.7

Figure 3.7 The Document Information Panel displays summary information about the current document.

The Document Information Panel displays a limited set of properties that are identical for all types of Office documents, including a free-form Comments box where you can enter notes about a file. To see the full list of available properties, click the Document Properties menu in the top-left corner of the panel and choose Advanced Properties. This opens a dialog box like the one shown in Figure 3.8, which organizes information in five tabs.

Figure 3.8

Figure 3.8 Each tab in the Advanced Properties dialog box displays different sorts of information; the Contents tab is the only one that can't be changed directly.

Each of the five tabs contains a different type of information.

  • General—Basic information from the Windows file system: name, location, size, and so on.
  • Summary—Information about the current file and its author, including fields for company name, category, and keywords. The check box at the bottom of this tab allows you to configure Word so it saves a thumbnail of every file of that type.
  • Statistics—Details about the size and structure of the file, such as the number of words in a document or the number of slides in a presentation; also displays revision statistics and total editing time. If you rely on these statistics to stay within a specific word count when working on a homework assignment, always inspect them from within the document itself, using the Word Count indicator on the Status bar, to guarantee that the information is up to date.
  • Contents—The parts of the file, such as the outline of a Word document, based on heading styles; worksheet titles in an Excel workbook; or slide titles in a PowerPoint presentation. The only way to change the information shown here is to change the contents of the file itself.
  • Custom—Twenty-seven built-in fields that are useful when creating business documents, including Client, Document Number, and Date Completed. In addition, you can enter a field of your own creation, such as the name of a class or a teacher. Custom fields can contain text, dates, numbers, or Yes/No information; they can also be linked to Word bookmarks, named Excel ranges, or PowerPoint text selections.

For simple projects, you might choose to ignore file properties and just give each document a descriptive filename that tells you everything you need to know about the file. For more complicated documents, however, adding file details—including keywords, categories, and free-form comments—can help you quickly find a group of related data files, even months or years after you last worked with them.

To enter additional details about an Office file, you must open the Document Information Panel or the Advanced Properties dialog box, fill in the appropriate fields, and then save the file. To close the Document Information Panel, click the X in its upper-right corner.

Default Document Properties

If you just click the Save button without entering any additional data, Office programs save only a few document properties along with the saved file. Windows stores the standard file details, of course, including the name and size of the file as well as the date and time the file was modified. All Office programs add your name (using whatever name the program finds on the Popular tab of the Options dialog box) in the Author field. PowerPoint fills in the Title field as well, using the contents of the title slide.

Using Custom Properties to Organize Files

Custom properties make it easier to keep track of files in an environment where many people create and share files on a shared source such as a file server. Most of the ready-made fields here are designed for use in an office, where you might use the Client, Status, and Recorded Date fields to track the progress of Word documents. But you can also add your own fields to keep track of specific information you find useful. Figure 3.9 shows a Word document that includes several custom properties.

Figure 3.9

Figure 3.9 Record additional file properties on the Custom tab; later, use Search tools to find files containing these details.

To enter custom criteria for any Office file, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Office button, choose Prepare, and click Properties.
  2. Click Document Information, Advanced Properties; click the Custom tab to display the dialog box shown previously in Figure 3.9.
  3. Choose a field from the Name list. To create a new field, type its name here.
  4. Choose one of the available data types from the Type drop-down list.
  5. Type the data for the selected field in the Value text box.
  6. Click Add. The new entry appears in the Properties list at the bottom of the dialog box.
  7. Repeat steps 3–6 for any additional custom fields. To remove an item from the Properties list, select its entry and click Delete. Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the program window.

The Link to Content check box is grayed out and unavailable unless you're working with a Word document that contains bookmarks, an Excel workbook that contains named ranges, or a PowerPoint presentation containing linked text. In any of those cases, you can enter a custom field name, select the Link to Content check box, and then choose the bookmark or named range. In a PowerPoint presentation, you must select the text you want to link to a custom field before opening the Properties dialog box.

Using Windows Explorer to View File Properties

To view any Office file's properties without opening the file itself, open a Windows Explorer window, right-click the file's icon, and then choose Properties. In Windows XP and Windows Vista, you can edit some file properties for Word documents, Excel workbooks, and PowerPoint presentations directly from an Explorer window.

In Windows XP, you can see some Office file properties, such as the author's name, in the info pane along the left side of a Windows Explorer window. In Windows Vista, this information appears in the details pane at the bottom of the window, as shown in Figure 3.10.

Figure 3.10

Figure 3.10 In Windows Vista, information drawn from an Office file's properties appears in the details pane at the bottom of a Windows Explorer window when the file is selected.

You can also see a thumbnail of the file itself in this region. The thumbnail appears for PowerPoint presentations only if you select the Save Preview Picture check box on the Summary tab of the Advanced Properties dialog box. For Word documents and Excel workbooks, this check box turns on thumbnails as a global option. After choosing the Save Thumbnails for All Word Documents (or Excel Workbooks) option, a thumbnail is automatically created when you save a file.

In the details pane of Windows Explorer, you can edit properties directly without opening the file. To increase or decrease the number of properties available in this pane, drag the horizontal divider between the contents pane and the details pane.

In Windows Vista, you can right-click the icon for an Office file in Windows Explorer and choose Properties. This view consolidates all Office-specific properties onto a single Details tab. If the file is not open in the Office program that created it, you can fill in or change some of these properties directly. Click in the area to the right of the property you want to change as in Figure 3.11 and enter the information.

Figure 3.11

Figure 3.11 Some properties of an Office file are editable directly from this Properties dialog box.

Removing Personal Information from Office Files

Information in saved documents, workbooks, and presentations can sometimes reveal more about you than you like. If you plan to post a document to a public website, you might prefer to have traces of potentially personal information, such as your username, removed. All Office 2007 programs make this task simple. Click the Office button, choose Prepare, and click Inspect Document. Select the Document Properties and Personal Information check box (and any others that you might find useful) and then click Inspect.

If the inspection finds any optional properties saved with the file, you see a report like the one shown in Figure 3.12.

Figure 3.12

Figure 3.12 If you're concerned about personal information "leaking" out into the world, inspect your documents before publishing them.

To remove all properties, click the Remove All button. To select individual properties for removal or editing, click Close and then open the Document Information Panel.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020