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Microsoft Word comes with certain security features that can be used to protect the document in different ways. It includes password protecting the document, sealing it with a digital signature and making certain parts of the documents as read-only. In this article, we will discuss some ways to protect Word documents from unauthorized editing.

Password protecting the document

A very common way of protecting your documents from unauthorized user access is to restrict access to the document using a password. Microsoft understands that confidentiality of your files is important so it provides an easy way to password protect your document. Add a password but remember that if you forgot the password, your document is lost completely. There is no way to retrieve lost passwords.

To password protect a document, follow the steps below:

Go to File –> Protect Document –> Encrypt with Password.

Word 2013 Encrypt Document

After entering the password, when you open the document, it will ask you for a password.

Mark document as final making it read-only

If you have completed the editing and formatting of your document and you know that no further changes are to be made, you can protect it without a password. The quickest way of preventing your document from editing is to save a read-only version of it by marking it as Final. When a document is marked as final, the status property is set to ‘Final’ and typing, editing commands, and proofing marks are turned off. Mark as Final icon appears in the status bar indicating that the document is a Read-only version.

  • Go to File –> Protect Document –> Mark as Final

Word 2013 Mark as Final

You may notice that all editing commands in the ribbon bar are now disabled. Word 2013 Mark as Final

Note that sometimes a document is displayed as read-only even when we have not marked it as Final. It is displayed because you may have opened multiple copies of a same document for editing. Windows allows you to make changes to a document from only one window at a time. That’s why the other opened versions would be Read-Only.

Restrict formatting and editing

Restrict Formatting and Editing feature lets you apply conditional restrictions. It means you can define parts of the document which can be edited and which are restricted.

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Formatting Restrictions limit formatting to a selected set of styles. It lets you specify the formatting styles that you want to allow to be used in the document.

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You can also add exceptions in your document. It means that if you are working in a team and you are working on a specific topic, you restrict that part for editing and the rest of the document is allowed to be edited freely.

  1. Highlight the part of text that is to be freely edited.
  2. In the formatting restrictions pane, go to exceptions and select ‘Everyone’.
  3. Now, click on Start Enforcement.
  4. Give a suitable password to your document and enforce the settings.

XPS or PDF Format

Microsoft Word 2013 comes with the ability to save a document in PDF or XPS formats. By default, PDF and XPS documents are read-only.

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To save a document in XPS format, do the following:

  • Go to File –> Export –> Select ‘Save as XPS’

You can save the file in PDF format in the similar way.

  • Go to File –> Export –> Select ‘Save as PDF’.

You can select a way  to protect your document from unauthorized access according to your need.  If you have completely finished any document, you may want to Mark it as Final or save as PDF/XPS. If the document is not private and you want to protect a part of  it, then restrict formatting and editing is the choice. In extreme cases, you can add password to the document which will limit access to the document to the ones who have the password.