Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 without a Password.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 10, 2018)
One common way to protect documents is to set the sharing options available when you save the document. For instance, when you save your document in Word 2007 you can you can choose Tools | General Options and then fill in the passwords in the dialog box. (One password is used to open the document, and the other is used if you want to prohibit changes to the document.) If you are using Word 2010 or a later version of Word, choose File | Info | Protect Document. Then choose Encrypt With Password to require the user to enter a password to open the file. You can restrict what types of edits can be made to the document if you choose Restrict Editing.
The drawback to these password-based approaches is that the user, when they try to open the document, is presented with a dialog box that asks for a password. The difference between the two passwords is that if you require a password to open, then the user won't even be able to open the document without it. If you require a password to modify the document, then the user can open a read-only copy of the document, even if they don't have the password.
What if you never intend to provide the password to users? In that case, asking for a password seems like a waste of time. Instead, it would be nice to have the users be able to skip the dialog box and just open a read-only copy of the document. There are three ways you can implement a solution in this scenario.
The first (and simplest) solution is to make the document file read-only. Within Windows (not Word), right-click on the document and choose the Properties option. In the resulting dialog box you can modify the read-only attribute for the file. If you mark it as read-only, then nobody can change the document; it will automatically be read-only when opened in Word. Of course, there is nothing stopping someone else from following these same steps and clearing the read-only attribute so that they can change the original file.
The second approach is to take advantage of your network settings, if you have a network. Just talk to your system administrator, and have her create a folder to which you can write, but from which others can only read. That way they can't change the original document, but you can.
The third approach is to protect the document differently. If you are using Word 2007, when you click the Protect Document tool (on the Review tab of the ribbon), Word displays the Protect Document task pane. This type of protection is often used when creating forms, but it has applicability to general documents, as well.
In the Protect Document task pane, choose the check box under Editing Restrictions, use the drop-down list to choose Filling In Forms, click "Yes, Start Enforcing Protection," and then provide a password.
If you are using Word 2010 or a later version the procedure listed above is slightly different. Click on the Restrict Editing tool in the Protect group of the Review tab of the ribbon. Word displays a list of three formatting and editing restrictions options. Under Editing Restrictions use the "Allow only this type of editing in the document" check box and choose No Changes (Read Only) from the drop-down list, click "Yes, Start Enforcing Protection," and then provide a password.
When the document is loaded at a later point, the user is not prompted for a password. The user also won't be able to do other things, such as to select text and copy it. The user will, however, be able to view and print the document, as desired.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11257) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Read-Only Documents without a Password.
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