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 Tracked Changes.

Protecting Tracked Changes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 5, 2012)

Vikas has a document on which many people in his office work. The original author of the document turns on Track Changes, and then sends the document to others. Unfortunately, it is possible for other people to turn off Track Changes or to accept/reject changes done by others who previously worked on the document. Vikas wonders if there is a way that Track Changes can be locked so that only the original author can turn it off and a way that only the original author can accept/reject changes.

Theoretically, there is a way. What you need to do is to protect the document so that only tracked changes can be made by other editors. The way you do this differs from one version of Word to another. If you are using Word 97 or Word 2000, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Protect Document from the Tools menu. Word displays the Protect Document dialog box.
  2. Choose the Tracked Changes 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 in the Document checkbox. Word enables the drop-down list under the checkbox.
  3. Using the drop-down list, choose Tracked Changes.
  4. Click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection. Word displays the Start Enforcing Protection dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. 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.

With these protections in place, people can view and edit your document with the changes being shown as regular Track Changes edits. Further, nobody can accept or reject changes without knowing the original password used to protect the document.

There is, of course, a big caveat to all of this, and it bears repeating any time people start to talk about protection. In Word, document protection will only provide protection for those who decide to "play nice." There are ways around the protection—the most notable of which is that an editor can simply copy all of the text from the edited document into a new document and start passing around that new document as if it were the original document. There is, unfortunately, no way around such behavior with Word documents.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (577) 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 Tracked Changes.

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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