How to check your Word documents for readability, compatibility and clarity

Before sharing a Word file with anyone else, you can review it for any specific issues. Here’s how.

You have just created a Microsoft Word file that you want to share with others. You need to ensure that the document is appropriate for sharing before you start. This means that it does not contain any hidden information, it is readable by people with special disabilities and it works with older versions of Word. All of these tasks can be accomplished with the built in document inspector.

SEE: Office 365: A guide for tech and business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The document inspector is available in Word in one form or another since 2010. It can be used in any version of Word that supports it, except the free online edition. All versions of Word can be used in the same way. Here’s how it works.

How to inspect a Microsoft Word document

You may need to search for hidden or inaccessible content you don’t wish others to see. Once you have saved your document, click on the File menu and select Info. Then click the button to Check for Issues. Click the first option to inspect document (Figure A).

Figure A

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Check or uncheck different contents in the Document Inspector window based on the information you want the tool to search for. Click the Inspect buttonFigure B).

Figure B

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Inspection flags all content types found in your document. To remove a particular type of content click the Remove All link next to it.Figure C).

Figure C

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The inspector is unable to remove all types content. The tool will inform you of what it cannot remove. Close the inspector, return to the document and review or remove any of the specific content.Figure D).

Figure D

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How to verify accessibility in Word documents

You can also check the document for accessibility by ensuring it is easily read by anyone with a disability. You can click on the File menu, then select Info and click the button to Check for issues. Check accessibility by clicking the second optionFigure E).

Figure E

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Any accessibility issues are flagged by the inspection, such as an image without a description. The tool will explain why the issue has been flagged and suggest a solution.Figure F).

Figure F

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How to verify compatibility in Word

Final, you can inspect your document to ensure it can be viewed in Microsoft Word. Click the button to Check for issues and then select the third option to Check compatibility (Return to the Info screen).Figure G).

Figure G

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The Microsoft Word Compatibility Checker shows any features or content in the document that could be problematic in older versions of Word. Click on the button to select versions. You can uncheck other Word versions and see which one would be affected.Figure H).

Figure H

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If you are certain that one of the recipients has an older version of Word, you can change or delete the affected feature. Once you are done, save the document so that it can be shared with your intended audience.

Also, see

  • Microsoft 365: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
  • TechRepublic: How to use Microsoft Word’s text wrapping options
  • How to automate entering dates with VBA in a Word document (TechRepublic)
  • 3 ways to enter fields in Microsoft Word (TechRepublic)
  • 10 time-saving tips to speed up your Word work (TechRepublic).
  • TechRepublic: How to customize Microsoft Office’s grammar checker
  • TechRepublic – How to join Microsoft’s Office Insider Program (TechRepublic).
  • Checklist: Securing Windows 10 systems (TechRepublic Premium)
  • Microsoft coverage must-read (TechRepublic on Flipboard)