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How to Lock and Unlock a Word Document

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 9/10/2014

Do you have the need to create Word documents that are essentially forms for end users to fill out? If so, you may need to lock down the text in the Word document that you don’t want touched. This article will help show you how to lock and unlock your Word documents.

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    The Developer Tab

    Before you can lock a Word document, you need to add a new menu tab to the user interface. This tab is called “Developer." If you open Word and don’t have that tab available, follow these steps to add it in.

    Right-click on one of the existing menu tabs (Home, Insert, Design, etc.). Select Customize the Ribbon.

    In the Word Options window, make sure Main Tabs is selected under the heading Customize the Ribbon.

    Scroll through the list of Main tabs and check the box next to Developer (Figure 1).

    Click OK.

    You should now see the Developer tab show up on the main Ribbon interface (Figure 2).

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    Figure 1: Developer TabFigure 2: Developer Tab
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    Restrict Editing

    Restrict Editing 

    Next, we will edit our Word document by adding some editable regions and text that we don’t want to be edited. To do so, make sure you are on the Developer tab. Type in any text you don’t want to be edited. For user input, we will add a Rich Text Content Control. This will allow users to edit only specific sections of the document once we lock it down. My sample document can be seen in Figure 3.

    Next, we can use the Restrict Editing button on the Developer tab to lock down the document. Clicking the Restrict Editing button will open a side tab on the right side of the document.

    We have three options – Formatting Restrictions, Editing Restrictions and Starting Enforcement.

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    Formatting Restrictions

    The first option allows you to restrict changes to the look and feel of the document. By default, Word has many different styles to handle how things like paragraphs, bullets and comments look. By locking this down you can restrict which styles are available to the end user.

    You can also restrict changing of the themes and schemes – enabling this checkbox (Figure 4) will disable the Themes, Colors and Fonts section of the Design tab.

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    Figure 4

    Figure 4: Formatting Restrictions
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    Editing Restrictions

    The Editing restrictions section allows you to do just that. You have four options for restricting editing – Read only, Tracked Changes, Comments and Filling in Forms.

    The Comments restriction only allows you to enter in comments in the document. No other changes can be made.

    The Tracked Changes option will allow you to edit any of the document, but will force Tracked Changes so any changes made can later be reviewed.

    The option we’re interested in is the last option – Filling in Forms. This will only allow end users to edit text that are in the specific controls we set up earlier.

    The Read-only option does give you the option where you exclude specific people. By default, the Read-only option will apply to all users, but you can easily add specific users in if you are on a corporate domain.

    Once you are happy with the restriction you wish to enable, click the Start Enforcing Protection button (Figure 5). You will then be presented with the option to password protect the enforcement. If you don’t want a password set, just leave the password fields blank.

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    Figure 5

    Figure 5: Restrict Editing
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    Disable Editing Restrictions

    To unlock a document simply select the Developer tab, click Restrict Editing to open the side panel and click the Stop Protection button. If you set a password when locking the document, you will be prompted to enter it here.

    That’s about all there is to protecting a Word document – I hope you have found this article useful!