Opening a Document as Read-Only in Windows Explorer

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 11, 2017)


Subscriber John Jordan asked how it was possible to open a Word document from the Windows Explorer in a manner similar to the Open Read-Only option that appears in Word's Open dialog box. Such an option is not available when right-clicking on a document in Windows Explorer.

Actually, there is a very similar feature that you can use. When you are using Windows Explorer, if you right click on a document you should see a shortcut menu. If the menu has a New option, choose it. (If you don't see a New option, try holding down the SHIFT key as you right-click on the document.) When you select New, Word is started and the document is loaded. However, what is loaded is a new document based on the one on which you right-clicked. The document is named Document1, Document2, Document3, etc. The original is undisturbed, and you can save the new document under any name you wish.

If this doesn't do it for you, you can always add a new Open Read-Only option to the shortcut menu that displays when you right-click on a Word document. This is all done within Windows, not within Word. Follow these steps:

  1. Open Windows Explorer.
  2. Choose Folder Options from the View menu. (In some versions of Windows you choose Options from the View menu.) Windows displays the Folder Options (or just plain Options) dialog box.
  3. Make sure the File Types tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The File Types tab of the Options dialog box

  5. In the list of Registered File Types, locate and select Microsoft Word Document.
  6. Click on the Edit button. Windows displays the Edit File Type dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The Edit File Type dialog box

  8. Select the Open option in the Actions list.
  9. Click on Edit. The Editing Action dialog box appears, and the contents of the Application Used to Perform Action box should be selected. (See Figure 3.)
  10. Figure 3. The Editing Action dialog box

  11. Press CTRL+C. This copies the contents of the Application Used to Perform Action box.
  12. Click on Cancel.
  13. Click the New button. Windows displays the New Action dialog box.
  14. In the Action box, enter the name you want to appear in the shortcut menu. For instance, you could type Open Read-Only.
  15. Position the insertion point in the Application Used to Perform Action box and press CTRL+V. The information you copied in step 8 is pasted into the box.
  16. Select the Use DDE check box. The New Action dialog box expands.
  17. In the DDE Message box, enter the following text:
  18. [FileOpen ("""%1"""),.ReadOnly]
  19. In the Application box, enter this single word: WinWord.
  20. In the Topic box, enter this single word: System.
  21. Click Close or OK as necessary to dismiss all the dialog boxes.

Now you can right-click on Word documents in Explorer and open them as read-only.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (597) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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What is five less than 8?

2015-07-30 05:43:04


Rick's suggestion doesn't appear to work. The file opens in writable state.

2015-01-06 09:10:38


Nice post on how to add actions to the context menu.

I learned today that there is a built-in way to open a file as read-only. Hold down Shift while right-clicking on a file to see additional options for opening the file. One of these is "Open as Read-Only".

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