How to find out author and date details for a PDF

July 13, 2012

Peter, a work colleague, wanted to know how to reference a PDF he’d located on a government website. There was no identifying information on the PDF — there was a date, a semblance of a title, but no authoring body, and the headers and footers offered only a variation of the title. He couldn’t guess the authoring body from the website address as this government department had changed names several times over the years since the publication date.

Here’s the top of page 1 of the PDF so you can see his dilemma:

No author information on the document

Fortunately, I was able to help him. By looking at the Document Properties for the PDF, I identified the author and the correct title for this document and Peter was able to complete his bibliography.


First, right-click anywhere in the PDF and select Document Properties.

Open the PDF's Document Properties

Then check the details on the Description tab.

The Document Properties show the authoring body and the full title

In this example, the full title was listed (1), along with the correct authoring body at the time the document was created (2), and the date it was created (3).

By the way, I’m pretty sure that this information comes from the metadata of the original software that was used to create the document (e.g. Microsoft Word), so while it’s good that it’s available in the PDF’s document properties, don’t rely on it 100%.

(based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues)


  1. Thanks for sharing that.

    Does anyone know how to automate the population of the Title and other fields of multiple PDFs using scripts?

  2. Thank you! I have had a similar issue whilst trying to cite a pdf found online. I now have a name, title, year and publisher. Thank you again!

  3. Thank you! Having spent well over an hour trying to search for the publication year of a document I was getting frustrated, but you’ve given me the quick solution.

  4. Thanks a lot

  5. But how do I access this information while opening a PDF in Google Chrome? I can’t right click to access the menu in my browser.

  6. Hi Bill

    If the right-click doesn’t work in Chrome, try downloading the PDF then opening it in Acrobat Reader.


  7. Hi, how could I find a author, if this window is emty?

  8. Hi lexconsult

    If the fields are empty, then you won’t find the author. It’s likely identifying information was removed from the Word document (or whatever software was used to create the document) BEFORE creating the PDF.


  9. If any one creates the pdf file to change the system date and entire file creates on back date and year. How can we know original data of creation of file. Pl suggest me.

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