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Protecting Parts of a Document

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Protecting Parts of a Document.

Word allows you to protect parts of a document so that they cannot be changed. This is done through Word's implementation of its forms feature. The idea behind forms is that you can specify the information to be entered in a form, using special controls, and then you protect the form so that you can only enter data by using those controls; all other information in the protected portion of the form cannot be changed. If you didn't define any controls for the form, then all the information still remains protected, and you end up with a document that cannot be changed.

When you protect your document, you can also specify that only specific sections of the document be protected. Sections, in Word, are defined by the presence of section breaks. You insert a section break by using the Insert | Break command. Once your document is divided into sections, you can protect a section by following these steps:

  1. Choose Protect Document from the Tools menu. Word displays the Protect Document dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Forms radio button is selected. The Sections button should now be accessible.
  3. Click on the Sections button. Word displays the Section Protection dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Section Protection dialog box.

  5. Make sure that only the section (or sections) you want protected are selected in the list of sections.
  6. Click on the OK button. Word closes the Section Protection dialog box.
  7. Click on the OK button to close the Protect Document dialog box.

At this point you cannot change anything in the document sections you specified in step 4, unless there were forms controls in that section.

Notice that protection is done in Word on a section-by-section basis. (If there is only one section in the document, then the whole document is protected.) This means that you cannot protect other objects, such as text boxes or table cells. There is a way, however, that you can protect an entire row in a table. All you need to do is insert a continuous section break at the beginning of the row you want to protect, and then insert another continuous section break at the beginning of the row following the one you want to protect. You can then follow the above steps to protect the section you just created—the one containing a single table row.

You can find more information about creating forms at this Word MVP Web page:


Pay particular attention to the links to the tutorials written by Dian Chapman; they provide quite a bit of detailed information about forms.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1685) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Protecting Parts of a Document.

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Comments for this tip:

Cory    23 Oct 2015, 16:52
@Kim, your comment was the most helpful. Thank you for posting.
Kacie     21 May 2015, 06:17
I have a document i have created that has fields i need filled in.
I created them by just drawing tables.
i now need to protect the document from people editing the "name, date etc" cells but they need to be able to fill in the other cells (i hope this makes sense!)
When i do the selective editing there's a little box that shows up in each cell they are able to edit. is there a way to protect parts of the document without this occuring?
Corey    25 Feb 2015, 19:34
I have a header, then a form section, then the rest of the document. I only want to protect the form, so I made the header section 1, the form section 2, and the rest of the document section 3. However, when I protect section 2, I'm also unable to edit the header (section 1). Is there some special way to deal with headers in document sections?
Kim    17 Mar 2014, 00:03
Very helpful, thanks. Was stuck for a very long time because the trick here is to have sections.

TIP: To create the appropriate sections, INSERT > BREAK > CONTINUOUS option > CLick OK
Tom Bates    30 Nov 2013, 09:39
I found the user interface for my Word 2003 to be a little different.

After Tools, Protect Document, I got the "Protect Document" task pane on the right. (Lost at that point, I asked Word for Help.)

So, under "Editing restrictions", I need to select "Filling in forms", and then check the box labeled "Allow only this type of editing in the document".

Then if, and only if, the document already has sections, Word shows a "Select sections" link just below "Filling in forms", and clicking on that link leads to the "Section Protection" dialog box that is shown in this article.

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