Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. 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 Embedded Fonts.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 12, 2020)
Bernie wrote about a problem he has with some old files created in Word. It seems that when he tries to open them now, he sees a message that says, "This document contains read-only embedded fonts," and that he cannot make changes in the document.
This behavior, believe it or not, is by design. TrueType fonts, which are installed on so many Windows machines, can possess properties that define how they can be used. Some fonts can be freely used on any system, while others cannot. In fact, the font can have any of the following properties set:
The properties assigned to a font cannot be changed by a user but are specified by the font developer. These attributes control how a font can be embedded within a Word document. You (as a document author) can control whether a font is embedded in a document using the following steps:
The Embed Fonts in the File control specifies whether the TrueType fonts used in your document should be embedded within it or not.
What effect does this have on you? None, other than your documents are a bit larger than they would otherwise be. It can have a huge effect on someone else, on a different machine, however. If they try to open your document—the one with embedded fonts—then exactly what happens depends on the properties of the fonts within the document and the configuration of the user's machine.
If the target user has the same fonts installed that were used when the document was created, then they will have no problem opening and using the file. If they don't, then Word tries to "install" the embedded font on the user's system, based on the properties of that font. If the font properties are "installable" or "editable," then the user has no problem and can use the document normally. If the font properties are "print and preview," the user sees a message just like Bernie did. The document can be opened, but only to review and print—it cannot be edited.
There are a couple of solutions to a problem such as this. The first solution is to install the licensed TrueType fonts on the target machine. If you don't know what the fonts are, then you can ask the document's author what they are, or you can ask the author to turn off font embedding. (If a document is saved without font embedding, and the specified font is not on the target system, then Word performs font substitution to approximate the original document.)
If neither of these approaches is practical, you can try to open the document in WordPad and save it under a new name, or you can open the document using Notepad, extract the text, and save it in a new document that you need to format from scratch.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13370) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Read-Only Embedded Fonts.
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