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Locking Down Word

Word is often used in environments where many different people may use the same machine. In those instances, you may not want people to be able to change Word to customize it. Unfortunately, Word is a difficult program to "lock down" so that changes cannot be made. This is due, in large part, to the many ways in which you can customize the program.

If Word is being used in a networking environment, the problem of preventing changes becomes even trickier, since the exact steps you would take depends (in large part) on the type of network and operating system being used. For instance, it is possible using Windows NT to set up a different log-in profile for each person using a particular machine. Word would sense the profile being used and save any configuration changes under that particular profile. This could quickly get unwieldy, however, as the number of users increases, since log-in and profile information can consume a fair amount of local hard drive space.

One thing that can be looked at (regardless of the network or operating system) is to make sure that all the users on a particular machine aren't sharing the same Normal.dot template. You can provide a minimal amount of protection if you save a copy of the existing Normal.dot to somewhere safe and out of the way (on the network) and then modify the Normal.dot to remove all the menu items and toolbar items that allow users to change settings. At a minimum the Options, Customize, and Macros menu items from the Tools menu should be removed. The need to remove Customize is to stop users from putting Options back on the Tools menu and the need to remove the Macros option is to stop users from using the All Commands approach to work around the removed access.

Despite these modifications, however, you can't lock down Word entirely because it's not possible to remove the Customize option from the Toolbar Context menu (the shortcut menu that pops up when you right-click in the Toolbar area) or remove the Toolbar Context menu itself. Hence it's likely that the 'smart' users will find a way to get back to Options.

The most aggressive (and safest) approach is to use an appropriate combination of User Profiles and System Policies within the Windows operating system. If the network already uses a custom security program that protects Windows from wayward users, chances are good that it can be relatively easily expanded so it covers application customization, such as is available with Word. It is best in these instances to speak to the supplier of the security software. You could also get a copy of the Windows Resource Kit, read the long and tricky chapters on System Policies and User Profiles, and get a system administration expert to provide some help on the set-up of the network.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (641) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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