How do I protect my document in Word 2010?

10 Jul

In a previous article, we talked about protecting your Word document using a Watermark (watermarks can also be used to extend your corporate or other branding through your documentation). Today we’re going to look at other, stronger ways to protect your Word 2010 document and prevent people from making changes to it.

Why might I want to protect my Word 2010 document?

Protecting a Word 2010 document means that anyone apart from you can either only access the document by using a password or is unable to make certain, or any, editorial changes to the original document.

Why would I want to stop people opening a document?

  • If you are storing confidential documents on a shared drive in a company-wide network
  • If you want to send a document to someone who shares an email address with a number of other people (for example a general email address at your accountant’s office)
  • If you want to send a document to someone but need to ensure that anyone intercepting it cannot open the document

Why would I want to stop people editing a document?

  • You’ve completed a final version of a document and want to make sure no one does any more edits
  • You are sending something like an invoice or a contract and want to make sure the recipient does not change anything
  • You’ve created a procedural document to be saved on a shared drive and don’t want your colleagues to make unauthorised changes

Where is the menu for protecting documents in Word 2010?

To access the menu for protecting documents, select the File tab at the extreme left of the row of tabs (remembering that it’s Home that is automatically selected), then visit the Info area, where you will find a section titled Protect Document:

Word 2010 1 menus

Click on the Protect Document button and you’ll be presented with a list of options:

Word 2010 2 permission options menu

We’ll go through these in turn. Some of them are not applicable if you’re working on your own, with only one computer on your network, but we’ll take a quick peek at them anyway.

What are my options for protecting my document?

Taking the options in turn …

Mark as Final

The Mark as Final option creates a read-only version of the document which will be marked as final and which will not let anyone make any changes. Access it via the menu we discussed above:

Word 2010 3 mark as finalClick on the button and you’re given a dialogue box to click on:

Word 2010 4 mark as final

Note: it’s a good idea to save this under a new file name.

You will then need to go and set the document to being Read-Only, which you can see how to do below in the Restrict Editing section.

Note 2: No one else can edit the read-only document, however they could possibly “save as” and then edit it (only turning a document into a PDF protects it from all changes).

Encrypt with Password

The second option allows you to apply a password to the document. This will mean that no one can open it without having the password, whether on your standalone computer, a shared network drive, or a copy of the document that you have emailed to them:

Word 2010 5 password

When you click this button, you will be asked to enter a password:

Word 2010 6 password

You will then be asked to enter the password again (the dialogue box looks the same).

When you or anyone else tries to open the document, this box will appear:

Word 2007 2a add password

If you want anyone else to be able to access the document you will need to let them know the password. If you’re sending the document as an attachment to an email, common sense tells you not to send the password in the body of the email …

Note: Once the user has accessed the document using the password, they will be able to edit and save it freely unless you have also applied one of the other levels of protection.

Restrict Editing

The next option, Restrict Editing, allows you to choose what parts or aspects of the document can be edited:

Word 2010 7 restrict editing

Click on this option and you are able to choose what levels of the document anyone else can edit. It will return you to your original document and give you a sidebar on the right hand side of your document:

Word 2010 8 restrict editing

Lots of options here, but looking at them in turn, you can …

Limit which styles can be edited – you will be given a list of options. This is useful if you have carefully set lots of headings styles and don’t want them to be changed:

Word 2010 9 restrict editing

Or allow only certain types of editing to be done:

Word 2010 10 restrict editing

This is where you can make the document Read-Only, i.e. it cannot now be edited.

Once you’ve made your selections here, you will need to press the Start enforcement button to initiate this. I believe that you cannot then make restricted edits yourself, although clearly you can go in and change these settings on your own document.

Word 2010 11 restrict editing

I suspect that almost no one knows about these settings, by the way, so if you are setting such restrictions, it might be polite and save time in the long run to let the recipient know that you’re doing this.

Restrict editors

This is a Windows-specific option that can allow you to set permissions for various people, usually within an organisation.

Word 2010 12 restrict by people

This involves using Microsoft’s Information Rights Management Service and being signed up to Windows Live. The message you get if you try to click Restricted Access or Manage Credentials explains it in more detail:

Word 2010 12.5 restrict by people

As the message says, many organisations (and all of the ones that I’ve worked in) have their own rights management systems embedded in their procedures and file/drive setups. It’s fine to set permissions and protect your document in that way, but that’s outside the scope of this article: you will need to talk to your IT support people or a knowledgeable administrator in your department. But this is there, and can be done if you have the relevant signups (again, contact IT or your systems administrator before signing yourself and others up for something that can affect access to documents on a shared organisational system).

Adding a digital signature

This last option is another one where you have to sign up for something extra …

Word 2010 13 digital signature

This is another useful way to protect your document, however, you will need to purchase a signature service from the Office Marketplace or you can sign up for a third-party service which will apply a digital signature to your document.

Word 2010 14 digital signature

I have signed up to a third-party system which applies a digital version of my signature which I have previously uploaded onto documents, which some of my clients insist on me doing when signing contracts, etc. I am not entirely sure how this would hold up legally in a court of law if you were trying to protect your document, however.

Creating a PDF using Word 2010

The best way to protect your document from being changed is still to convert it into a PDF. A PDF is a copy of a document, a bit like a photocopy, which cannot be edited and changed. Well, that’s not strictly true nowadays: the VERY best way to protect a document is to turn it into a PDF and password protect it so it can only be opened by the recipient and make it read-only so it can’t be edited. I’m going to publish an article on PDFs soon, so look out for that.

You used to have to use a separate programme to create a PDF from a Word document; however, from Word 2010 onwards, you can create a PDF directly within Word.

In the Save and Send menu under the File tab, choose Create PDF/XPS Document:

Word 2010 15 pdf

What is an XPS document? Open XML Paper Specification (also called OpenXPS) is an open specification for a page description language and a fixed-document format, developed by Microsoft. It’s kind of an equivalent standard to PDF. If you’re asked to send someone a document in this format, now you know what it is (I’ll admit here that I have never done this myself).

Hit the Create PDF/XPS button and you’ll be taken to the Save As screen to save your document as a PDF (note that it might well take you to a temporary file folder and you’ll need to navigate to whichever folder you’ve saved your original document in).

You can also use the Save As menu directly from the Home tab for this function:

Word 2010 16 pdf

I’ll go into more detail about how you can protect that PDF further in my article on PDFs.

For now, we’ve learned how to protect a document in Word 2010, including information on why you’d want to do that, where you can find the menus, and what you can do.

Related articles

How to Watermark your document

How to protect your document in Word 2007

(coming soon):

Protecting your document using PDFs


This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

25 responses to “How do I protect my document in Word 2010?

  1. Wim

    June 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Liz, thank you for all the interesting info. One question: (maybe you already answered it somewhere else, in that case just direct me there) I send very sensitive info to different power stations here in South Africa (.pdf format) The competition would love to get their hands on it to copy. How do I protect these documents from being copied once they have reached their destination? The problem is that the legal recipient might want to print the document which is agreed on, but how do I protect it from being forwarded and printed more than once?


    • Liz at Libro

      June 15, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      Hi Wim, the only way you can protect the copy at their end is for them to save it into a password-protected folder in their system, and delete your email to make sure that can’t be hacked and retrieved. There’s no way that I know to ensure one print or forward – sorry!


  2. Deepak

    October 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Hi My name is deepak i prepared my resume in Microsoft word 2010, but when the file is opened in latest versions of word all the alignments in my previous documents are changed could you suggest me how to fix this, as when several companies use different versions they could not find my resume in proper alignment.


    • Liz at Libro

      October 6, 2014 at 5:39 am

      Thanks for your question, Deepak. You could protect your document so that the formatting doesn’t change (see the article for how to do this) or alternatively save your CV as a pdf if companies to which you are sending it allow this – it can’t possibly change then. I suspect that it’s something to do with the tab settings; using only the standard tabs that are there by default might work, or you could create the CV in a table then hide the lines of the table. I hope that one of these options works for you.


  3. Hallveig

    March 4, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Hello! I just made a fillable Word document that will be available for a number of my co-workers to fill out. I don’t want them to be able to close and save the document since then the changes they made to the fillable boxes are saved to the original form. How can I restrict the form so that they will have to do Save As after they have filled out the document?


    • Liz Dexter

      March 5, 2015 at 8:06 am

      If you make the document read-only, they will have to Save As in order to be able to save it with a different filename then complete it. I hope that helps, although it works in a different order, in that they will have to save as first, then fill it in. You could always put a note to that effect in bold at the top of the document so they see it when they open it.


      • Kelly

        November 4, 2015 at 4:19 pm

        Hi Liz,
        In word 2013 when I save as read only and go back into the document it says “MARKED AS FINAL An author has marked this document as final to discourage editing” with an option to edit anyway. I want to create a a document that is read only with an option to save as to edit, not an option to edit this document that should be read only. Please let me know if there is a way.

        Thank you,


        • Liz Dexter

          November 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

          Hello Kelly and thank you for your question. This is because you also need to hit the Protect Document – Restrict Editing button in the FILE menu, then in 2. editing restrictions, choose No Changes [Read Only]. I will edit the post and do a new one for Word 2013 to make this clearer.


  4. guia metodo respeito

    September 5, 2015 at 3:59 am

    This tutorial couldnt have come in a better time especially for me who Im writer and need to protect word docs


  5. curso academia importador

    September 23, 2015 at 3:44 am

    Another great tutorial. Does it apply also to the latest version of microsoft word?

    Keep up the good work


    • Liz Dexter

      September 24, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Broadly, it does – watch this blog for an updated article covering Word 2013, however.


  6. Ahmed Hassan

    June 8, 2016 at 9:09 am

    hello, I want to allow my users to (Open, Edit and save) the file and prevent printing because of security issues


    • Liz Dexter

      June 8, 2016 at 9:34 am

      If you go to Info – Permissions – Restrict Permissions by People you can sign up for a free Microsoft service that will allow you to prevent printing. I hope that helps.


  7. Carol

    June 16, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Hi, could you please tell me if there is a way to stop a document being re saved i.e. save as?


  8. academiadoimportadorfunciona

    August 7, 2016 at 12:56 am

    This tutorial couldnt have come in a better time especially for me who Im writer and need to protect word docs very very good jobs tenks =)


  9. Rebecca

    August 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Hi, we use lots of Word templates for our controlled documents and forms. Despite all our best efforts in educating people they still create copies of documents to put on their desktops rather than shortcuts. This soon leads to people working off different versions! Is there any way of preventing a Word file from being copied in this way? We still need people to be able to complete the forms and print them.


    • Liz Dexter

      August 26, 2016 at 6:55 am

      Thanks for your question, Rebecca. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent people “saving as” a document and making their own copy. Even if you got editable PDFs sorted out for them, they could still do this. The only thing to do is education, education, education, I’m afraid.


  10. socoj

    April 2, 2017 at 12:50 am

    Hi Liz, wanted to thank you very much for the info. I am a new writer of Scripts, Monologues and such and wanted to secure my works but have to distribute them of course for them to be at all effective. As I embark into this scary, copyright heavy industry this is some of the best & clearest info I’ve happened upon in my research. Makes me feel safer already as I’m entering my first work this coming August to be performed at an Actors Convention, full of, “idea seekers” if you will. hahaha. But it also means sending my work out a lot to fellow actors, but strangers. So thank you again and I am looking forward to helping myself with your great guidance! Much appreciated!


  11. Steve

    April 3, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Hi, you may have addressed this elsewhere also so forgive me. I want to protect a document that has embedded word and pdf files in it as read only. When I do the above, the embedded files will not open. How do I protect a document and still allow users to open the embedded files? Thanks!


    • Liz Dexter

      April 3, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you for this question, this is not one I’ve come across before, but I’ve done a search and found this:

      Restrict Formatting and Editing task pane, beneath No changes (Read only) is Exceptions. Select your object’s icon and tick the box labelled Everyone. Turn on Protection.

      Can you see if that works and please report back! Hope that helps!


    • Liz Dexter

      April 3, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      I should have said, I found what I paraphrased above here



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