Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Read-Only Documents.

Read-Only Documents

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 8, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


1

Sometimes you'll want to circulate a file to other people, but you don't want them to change your words. There are several ways you can make your document read-only. The first, and simplest, way is to use the capabilities of your operating system to make the change. Simply create your document, and then (from outside of Word) change the properties of the document to indicate it is read-only.

The other way to accomplish this is from within Word itself, by following these steps:

  1. Create your document as you normally would.
  2. Press F12. Word displays the Save As dialog box.
  3. Specify the location and name of the file as you want it saved.
  4. Click the Tools button (just to the left of the Save button) and then choose General Options. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The General Options dialog box.

  6. In the dialog box you can specify a password and read-only recommendation for the file.
  7. Click on OK to close the dialog box. Word again displays the Save As dialog box.
  8. Click on Save to save your file.

The only problem with this approach to protecting your document is that anyone can still load the file and then use the Save As option command to save their own copy of the document. The only sure way around this is to save the document in some other application format (such as a graphic image) that precludes any use of the information except for reading. If you use a program such as Adobe Acrobat (to create a PDF of your Word document), then you'll need to apply security permissions within that program to try to stop it from being saved back out in another Word document.

There is another option that may also fit the bill. This involves saving your document as a Word form, which can be easily protected. To accomplish this, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Protect Document tool within the Protect group (in Word 2013 and Word 2016, it's the Restrict Editing tool). Word displays the Protect Document pane (Word 2007 and Word 2010) or the Restrict Editing pane (Word 2013 and Word 2016) at the right side of your document.
  3. In the Editing Restrictions section of the pane, choose the Allow Only This Type of Editing In the Document checkbox. Word enables the drop-down list under the checkbox.
  4. Using the drop-down list to choose which type of allowances you want in your document..
  5. Click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection. Word displays the Start Enforcing Protection dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Start Enforcing Protection dialog box.

  7. Enter a password (twice) in the dialog box.
  8. Click on OK.
  9. Save the file as normal.

Now nobody can change your document without knowing the password. It's important to note, though, that the encryption isn't the strongest. A search on Google can reveal several ways to try and crack this type of protection. Keep that in mind and choose the method which best suits your needs.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (111) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Read-Only Documents.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is two less than 3?

2023-07-10 11:58:57

Holly

I'm more concerned by the documents that RANDOMLY open "read only." I invariably discover the random "read only" setting upon trying to save the document that I've just edited and then I have to save under a different name. I've tried various solutions to clearing out the "read only" trigger to no avail. IT DRIVES ME NUTS. Thanks for all the help you've provided us trying to cope with this crap software. I've been using Word with all my might for eight years and I still miss WordPerfect.


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