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: Read-Only Documents.

Read-Only Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 19, 2015)

Sometimes you'll want to circulate a file to other people, but you don't want them to change your words. There are several ways you can make your document read-only. The first, and simplest, way is to use the capabilities of your operating system to make the change. Simply create your document, and then (from outside of Word) change the properties of the document to indicate it is read-only.

The other way to accomplish this is from within Word itself, by following these steps:

  1. Create your document as you normally would.
  2. Choose Save As from the File menu. Word displays the Save As dialog box.
  3. Specify the location and name of the file as you want it saved.
  4. Depending on your version of Word, either click on the Options button (Word displays the Save tab of the Options dialog box) or click the Tools button and then choose Security (Word displays the Security dialog box). (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Security dialog box.

  6. In the dialog box you can specify a password and read-only recommendation for the file.
  7. Click on OK to close the dialog box. Word again displays the Save As dialog box.
  8. Click on Save to save your file.

The only problem with these approaches to protecting your document is that anyone can still load the file and then use the Save As option command to save their own copy of the document. The only sure way around this is to save the document in some other application format (such as a graphic image or in Adobe Acrobat) that precludes any use of the information except for reading.

There is another option that may also fit the bill. This involves saving your document as a Word form, which can be easily protected. To accomplish this, follow these steps if you are using Word 97 or Word 2000:

  1. Choose Protect Document from the Tools menu. Word displays the Protect Document dialog box.
  2. Choose the Forms option.
  3. Enter a password at the bottom of the dialog box.
  4. Click on OK.
  5. When prompted, enter your password again.
  6. Save the file as normal.

If you are using Word 2002 or Word 2003, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Protect Document from the Tools menu. Word displays the Protect Document pane at the right of the document window.
  2. In the Editing Restrictions section of the pane, choose the Allow Only This Type of Editing checkbox. Word enables the drop-down list under the checkbox.
  3. Using the drop-down list, choose Filling In Forms.
  4. Click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection. Word displays the Start Enforcing Protection dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Start Enforcing Protection dialog box.

  6. Enter a password (twice) in the dialog box.
  7. Click on OK.
  8. Save the file as normal.

Now nobody can change your document without knowing the password.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (158) 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: Read-Only Documents.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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