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How to Protect Word Documents in Office 2007

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/17/2011

One of the best features of MS Office is that it allows you to protect your documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows from unauthorized people. This article describes protecting Word 2007 documents.

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    Protecting Word 2007 Documents – Password to Open/Modify Documents

    There are several options for protecting Word 2007 documents. The common one that most people use is password protection for opening Word 2007 documents. You also have the provision to let people open the file in Read-Only mode so they cannot edit any portion. You can access these two settings from the Save As dialog. Other than these two, the Protect Document option in the Review tab of Word 2007 ribbon offers you several other options such as Restricted Editing/Formatting and Restricted Access. You can set the restrictions for everyone or for selected users. Before checking out this option for protecting Word 2007 documents, let us check out the basic password protection for opening a document.

    The option to set a password to "open a document" and a password to "open in read only mode" is available via the Save As dialog. When you use the "Save" or "Save As" option in the Office button menu, you get the Save As dialog. On the lower-left corner, you can see a push button labeled Tools (Fig 1). After you have typed a filename, click the button and select General Options. You will get a General Options dialog with the Save As dialog still open (Fig 2). You can see two textboxes: Password to Open and Password to Modify. The labels are self-explanatory. You can use either one of them or both, depending upon your need.

    Note: When you create a password to open the file, MS Office 2007 automatically encrypts the document, so that no one can gain unauthorized access to it using any alternate means.

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    Image References - Section I

    Fig 1 - Save As Dialog - Protecting Word DocumentsFig 2- General Options - Protecting Word Documents
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    Protecting Word 2007 Documents – Windows Rights Management

    For protecting Word 2007 documents by managing credentials and allowing restricted access to documents, you need you to download the latest version of Windows Rights Management Client. Let us check out how to restrict all users or selected ones from opening and editing/formatting your Word documents.

    Select the Review tab and click on the inverted triangle portion of the Protect Document towards the end of the ribbon. You will get two bold labels – Restrict Reviewing Options and Restrict Permission (Fig 3). As you click on it, you will get a box that guides you through placing restrictions (Fig 4). It contains three essential steps. The first one allows you to select the sections where people can edit. To make it effective, select the checkbox saying Limit formatting to a selection of styles.

    You can move on to the second step if you wish to use the default settings that do not allow users to edit anything. To customize this, click on the Settings… link just below the check box. You will get a box with several components of the document: footnotes, captions, body text, paragraphs and more. Select the ones that you do not wish anyone to edit and click OK. Come down to the Editing Restrictions as shown in Fig 4. You can select if the document should be Read-Only, or whether it should highlight the portions changed by someone, comments, and forms. Before you click on Yes, Start Enforcing Protection, you may want to select users for whom the restrictions are applicable.

    Once done, click the Start Enforcing Protection button. You will get two options. Select User Authentication and click OK. You can always use the encryption method discussed in first section to encrypt the document. This way, the authorized users will be able to make changes but cannot manipulate the document by removing the password. Only the person who created the document and placed restrictions can remove the password.

    Note: A document with restrictions will always display a bar saying Restricted Access. The owner can also change the restrictions by clicking on Change Permission… link on the bar (fig 5).

    IMPORTANT: When you click OK, Office 2007 may prompt you to download and install Windows Rights Management Client (if you do not have it, or if the version you have is older). If you do not have your own server, you can use a free trial that gives you access to MS servers for six months.

    This is one of the best methods for protecting Word 2007 documents and it is easy to use. Among other methods is to use any disk encryption software.

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    Image References - Section II

    Fig 3 - Restrict Formatting and EditingFig 4 - Restrict Formatting and EditingFig 5 - Protecting Word 2007 Documents