Filling Forms and Editing Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 7, 2022)


Corrine has a form that she created in a document. She can use document protection (via the Restrict Editing task pane) to allow filling in forms, but that makes the rest of the document uneditable. What she would like is a way for the form to be "fillable" while leaving the rest of the document available for editing. She wonders if that is possible.

This is possible, and Word makes it relatively easy to do. The general idea is that you insert section breaks around the portion of your document that constitutes your form—in other words, put one just before your first form control and one just after your last form control. Section breaks are inserted by displaying the Page Layout tab of the ribbon (Word 2007, Word 2010, and Word 2013) or the Layout tab of the ribbon (Word 2016) and using the Breaks tool. If you want the form to be just a portion of a larger page of the document, then use continuous section breaks. If you want the form to be on its own page, then use next-page section breaks, instead.

Before you can protect the form, you need to figure out what section it is that contains your form. The easiest way to do this is to display the section number on the status bar. You do this by right-clicking the status bar, which displays a Context menu that includes a section called Customize Status Bar. In this section, make sure the Section option has a check mark beside it. (If it doesn't, click it to add the section number to the status bar.)

Now, position the insertion pointer inside the form, between the two section breaks you entered. You can then look at the left side of the status bar and Word tells you what section you are in. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Figuring out the section for your form.

Now it is time to apply the protection to the form. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Restrict Editing tool, in the Protect group. Word displays a task pane at the right side of your document. (Depending on your version of Word, this task pane may be called Restrict Formatting and Editing or simply Restrict Editing.)
  3. In section 2 of the task pane (Editing Restrictions), select the check box. This enables the drop-down list in the section.
  4. Using the drop-down list, choose Filling in Forms. Word makes the Select Sections link available, right under the drop-down list. (The link is only made available if your document contains multiple sections.) (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. Protecting your document.

  6. Click the Select Sections link. Word displays the Section Protection dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  7. Figure 3. The Section Protection dialog box.

  8. Make sure that only the section (or sections) you want protected are selected in the list of sections. Only those sections you determined earlier—the ones that contain your form—should have a check mark beside them.
  9. Click on the OK button. Word closes the Section Protection dialog box.
  10. In section 3 of the task pane (Start Enforcement), click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button. Word displays the Start Enforcing Protection dialog box. (See Figure 4.)
  11. Figure 4. The Start Enforcing Protection dialog box.

  12. Enter a password for the protection, if desired. (You'll need to enter it twice.)
  13. Click OK.
  14. Close the Restrict Formatting and Editing task pane.

At this point, only the section in which your form is located is protected. Anything else in the document can be edited, provided it is in a section other than where the form is located.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (4267) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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 six more than 7?

2022-03-21 13:40:38

Christy Parks

I'm trying to fill out a form on word, not be unable to fill out my form at all!!! Sadly this is what Google gave me when looking up "how to fill out a form on word". I don't want to have to convert to a PDF, fill it out and then convert back to a word doc, that would be more work I shouldn't have to do!

2017-11-13 13:38:18

Corrine Streff

Hi Allen,

Sorry for the late reply but thank you so much for your response! What you said totally makes sense, and although I didn't key it, I'm confident this will work. I shared the information with my student that was asking, and will now know how to answer this question should it come up in another Word Advanced class !

Thank you again!
Corrine Streff, Microsoft Instructor

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