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document metadata

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Document metadata is information attached to a text-based file that may not be visible on the face of the document; documents may also contain supporting elements such as graphic images, photographs, tables and charts, each of which can have its own metadata.

Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier. Having the ability to filter through that metadata makes it much easier for someone to locate a specific document or other data asset in a variety of different ways. 

Document metadata in Microsoft Word, for example, includes the file size, date of document creation, the names of the author and most recent modifier, the dates of any changes and the total edit time. Further metadata can be added, including title, tags and comments. 

Editing features like the "Track changes" option in Word also generate metadata such as text that has been deleted and comments between authors and editors. Because that content can contain sensitive information, it's important to be aware of metadata security measures and take appropriate steps to protect corporate data assets from unauthorized access. Document sanitization, for example, is the process of ensuring that only the intended information can be accessed from a text-based file. 

See also: metadata management

This was last updated in August 2014

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