The right tool

The end result is that the company gets accurate figures far more quickly than before and the person who had to produce the statistics has more time free to be productive elsewhere. The next step is to publish the PivotTables and PivotCharts on the company’s SharePoint intranet system so that anyone can see the latest sales figures, not just the bosses. We can also extend the system so that it learns which products belong to which sector as it goes along, rather than relying on a user classifying them each and every time one is sold.

The right tool

Secure at Last?

To the sound of what must have been resounding cheers from the Oval Office, the Pentagon and Downing Street, Microsoft has released the Microsoft Office Word 2003 Redaction Add-in, a potential cure for many of those oh-so embarrassing leaks that occur when well-meaning civil servants release documents with bits that they thought they’d blacked out, but cunning journalists find a way to reveal the hidden text – sometimes by simply highlighting the blacked-out portions or copying and pasting the text into a new document. If you’re unfamiliar with the act of redaction and think it might be something to do with the communist takeover of the world, the following definition might enlighten you:

redact VERB (tr) 1. to compose or draft (an edict, proclamation, etc) 2. to put (a literary work etc) into appropriate form for publication; to edit. [Source: Collins English Dictionary, 2003]

No, I didn’t know that either. The new add-in gives Word a toolbar that allows the user to mark up text for redaction.

Text that will be removed from the document is shown with a grey wash behind it. Once you’ve finished marking up the document, click the Redact Document button and all the marked text is removed from the document and replaced by black bars of length equal to the text that was removed. These changes are made in a new copy of the document so that the original is preserved. The marked text is removed rather than just hidden, because all non-space characters in the marked areas are replaced by vertical bar characters and those are then highlighted in black.

There are a few restrictions you have to be aware of. If you have any other text in your document that has a background shading of 25 per cent grey, it’s liable to be removed along with the text you purposely marked to be redacted. You can’t mark text for removal within a textbox or in comments and you can’t redact any graphics. Since the text gets copied to a new document, all the revision history is lost, but that’s often a desirable thing anyway in these applications. One strange feature of the add-in is that, once it’s removed the text, it offers to protect the new document, and if you allow it to do this the document will be protected against editing by a strong, randomly generated password, which the add-in deliberately doesn’t tell you! I realise that you still have the original document, which you can always edit and redact again, but protecting a file with an unknowable password still feels more than a little odd to me.

If you’ll find this add-in useful, you might also want the Remove Hidden Data Add-in, which removes tracked changes, editing history and other personal data that may be present but not obvious in Word, Excel or PowerPoint files. This add-in works with Office XP and Office 2003. To get either of these add-ins, go to the Microsoft Download Center and search for redactionsetup.msi or rhdtool.exe.

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