Protecting a Table Column

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 1, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


You may wonder if Word provides a way that you can protect the contents of a table. For instance, you may want to set up a table where the first column is used for text you don't want changed, and the other columns are used for text that users of your document would answer. Unfortunately, there is no native way to protect a column in Word. There are a couple of workarounds, however.

The first potential solution (and perhaps the best) is to create the table using Excel. Within Excel you can protect the contents of cells. You can then insert the portion of the worksheet into Word. The protection remains, and people can still enter information in the cells that you have not protected.

If you don't want to use Excel, you can instead modify your Word document so that it uses the form capabilities of the program. You would create form fields in the table columns where you want people to enter information, and then protect the rest of the document so it cannot be changed. The only drawback to this, of course, is that when you apply protection, the entire document is protected, not just the table column you didn't want changed.

If you decide to use the form field workaround, follow these general steps:

  1. Create a new document.
  2. Insert a table with two columns and as many rows as desired.
  3. Type the text you don't want changed into the left-hand column.
  4. Display the Forms toolbar (use the Toolbars option from the View menu).
  5. Place the insertion point in a table cell where you want the user to enter information.
  6. Click the Text Field button on the Forms toolbar. Word inserts a text form field in the cell.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for every other cell where you want the user to enter information.
  8. Click on the Protect button on the Forms toolbar. Nothing can be edited in the document now, except any text entered in the form fields.

This last step is the important part—it locks the document so that the user can only enter information in the form fields. Of course, the protection provided by locking the document as a form is very minimal, since anyone with any knowledge of Word can unlock the document by using the same steps you used to lock it. The way around this is to password-protect the document. (Full information on how to password protect a document is available in other issues of WordTips.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3810) 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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