Friday, June 26, 2009

How to make Word documents read only, selectively editable or password protected

A lot of users prefer PDF documents over Word documents because they are read-only by nature, and hence tamper proof. But did you know that there are all kinds of security features built into Microsoft Word, and that it allows creation of Word documents that prevent users from editing it either completely or partially? That feature exist since Microsoft Word 2003 and an extra feature was introduced in Word 2007.

Let’s find out how to do it.

Doing it in Word 2003

  1. Open the document you want to make read only.
  2. From the Tools menu select Protect Document (you never noticed it, right?)
    word2003-protect 
  3. word2003-protect2A sidebar will appear on the right with “Protect Document” options.
  4. Check the box under “Editing restrictions”. Make sure the drop down menu is selected as “read only”.
  5. Click the button “Yes, start enforcing protection” and you will prompted for a password.
  6. Enter the password and save the document.

The document is now read-only. Users can still open and read the document without knowing the password. The password is required only if you want to edit the document. For this, you have to click on “Stop Protection”, that shows up at the bottom of the sidebar when you open such a protected document, and type the correct password.

Sometimes it may happen that you might need to make certain regions of the document editable. For example, you might issue a form that you need to protect but still enable users to type their names into it before printing.

That’s possible by checking the box against “Everyone”, under the section “Exceptions (optional)” as in the screenshot above. Then highlight the regions of the document which you want to make editable. Now click on “Yes, start enforcing protection”.

word-protected

This time the document is read-only except the highlighted region. This region is shown with a yellow background.

Doing it in Word 2007

Protecting a document in Word 2007 involves the same steps as in Word 2003, except that the “Protect Document” option is under the “Review” tab in the ribbon.

word2007-protect

I also mentioned about an extra feature in Word 2007. This feature is known as marking a document “final”, and it provides temporary read-only protection to a document to prevent accidental deletion or changes.

To mark a document final, click on the orb and select “Mark as Final” under Prepare sub menu. Click OK to make it final. The document now cannot be edited. To enable write mode, once again click on “Mark as Final”.

word2007-markfinal

Password Protecting Word Documents

This option can be found in another section, and it’s the same in both Word 2003 and Word 2007.

When you click on Save or Save as, look for an item called “Tools” in the save dialog box. Click it to reveal a drop down menu. From it choose “Security Options”.

word-password

Here you can set your password, also access the protect features and further, choose to remove personal information (meta data) from the document before saving.

Also see: Hide sensitive data in Word documents with Redaction

19 comments:

  1. But the advantage of PDF is you dont need a password too... why keep a password and then people will ask for your password, crack the password etc

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  2. The idea of this article is not to lead people into favoring Word over PDF. It's just to let people know about the existence of this tool in Word.

    Regarding the password thing, it doesn't pop-up in your face when you open the document. In fact, most people will not even realise it's password protected.

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  3. Nice
    Never knew I can do all this with word...
    thnx (:

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  4. can you stop the unprotected bits from being highlighted?
    I can do it with the tickbox while i'm making the document, but every time someone starts a new doc based on the template, it starts the highlighting again.

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  5. Thank you for posting this .. will help a lot !

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  6. how to disable printing of word 2007 document without needing a password. it is possible to do this on pdf (read-only and unprintable). pls help to do the same in word 2007. thank you

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  7. @mohd khalid: I don't know much about it, but you can probably do it with a macro. I will try to find out.

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  8. how can i prevent sb from copying my encrypted doc??

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  9. how to make password protection in the partly word document.

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  10. Hi there,

    I have friend that came back to me saying he can still edit the doc although I've follow the above method. He only copied (ctrl+A) and paste it in a new word doc. I tried it out and Yup it still can be tempered.

    Is there other way to prevent this..if not for sure I'll go back using PDF.

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  11. ms word not designed for document protection, read-only password dont protect any..

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  12. Thank You!!! This was very helpful.

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  13. If you forget the password, i think you can use Smartkey Word Password Recovery to help you remove the password.

    http://www.lost-password.net/products/wordpasswordrecovery.html

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  14. Thank you! Been looking for a LONG time for useful info regarding form fields and making text non-editable. This was so helpful!

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  15. Thanks a bunch this was helpful, and easy to understand. I needed to make my resume read only because it makes such a big difference with out the lines everywhere Word thinks there is a misspelling etc.

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  16. This is really working. But i want a bit more. Can anyone tell me how to make your word document to stop copy past!!

    -Jen
    (Puff & Pie thai airways)

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  17. @puff & pie สาขา: You mean copy text out of the document? That can't be prevented.

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  18. How can I stop people editing my template but then allowing them to save the document for themselves with a new title and location in order for them to then edit and type into it

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