Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. 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 Files.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 23, 2015)
By definition, a read-only file is one which you can open and look at, but which you cannot change and save under the same file name. There are times when read-only files are beneficial, but what do you do if files are turning into read-only files on their own?
The first thing to check out is those items over which you have control. For instance, has someone set the options in Word so that read-only is the recommended way to save files? You can check this by displaying the Save As dialog box and then clicking Tools | General Options. The Read-Only Recommended check box is used to control this feature.
Another possible cause is that you are sharing the Word documents across a network. Let's say you have three users trying to access a file. User A opens the file first and has no problems. Other users try to open the file, and they receive a notice that the file is read-only. The solution to this is easy—simply wait for User A to finish using the document.
A possible cause is that the folder in which the file is located is read-only. You can check this by using the Windows Explorer to check the attributes of the directory. Don't forget to check the attributes of any other directories up the line from the one where you are having a problem.
If the problem files are on a network, it could also be caused by interference from some third-party program. For instance, I know of a site that used a mixed Windows/UNIX network. They used a software package called Samba to enable the Windows system to talk with the UNIX server. When a user would create a document under Word and save it on the server, there would be no problem. However, if another user later opened the same file, then the ownership rights for the file were changed to the second user. When the first user went back to access the file, they received a read-only message on the file. In this case, the error was traced to the Samba software, which was making the changes in the file rights.
If the read-only problem is with a specific file, you can open the file, select all the contents (press Ctrl+A), open a new document, and paste the contents into the new document (Ctrl+V). Then you can save the new document and discard the old.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11596) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Read-Only Files.
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