Secure your Word documents: Restrict editing in Word

Suppose you are working with several people on the same document and certain parts are already ready. Of course you want to avoid that an overzealous colleague accidentally still tinkers with the final parts of the text. Fortunately, Microsoft Word has a function to protect a document in such a way that only the marked passages are available for other people's adjustments.

Tip 01: Limit editing

So you want to throw a Word document into the group that you want certain fragments to remain read-only, because a mistake happened quickly. We're using here in Word 2016, but it works the same way in Word 2013. Open the Word document you want to protect and go to the tab Check. In this tab you choose right in the group To secure the function Restrict Editing. This will cause a bar for this feature to appear on the right side of the document. Please tick the box here: Only allow edits of this type in the document. Make sure the option No changes (read only) is selected in the menu. There is also an option here Exceptions, but we will come back to that in tip 3.

Anything you don't select in the Restrict Editing feature will be converted to read-only

Tip 02: Allow editing

Then you select the parts that others will be allowed to edit later. Do this carefully, because anything you don't select will end up read-only. If you want to select two or more parts that can be edited, you do that by holding down the Ctrl key while clicking and dragging. That way you expand the selection.

Tip 03: Exceptions

Once you've selected the text, go back to the window Restrict Editing. There you tick the checkbox Everybody on in the part Exceptions. This allows anyone who receives the document to edit the content you just selected. When several people receive the document, but only certain people are allowed to edit the content, click on the blue text in the window More users. A new window opens where you enter the usernames, separated by a semicolon. This method is mainly intended for a corporate network where access to a network user directory is required, for example you have to write the email address or name as domain/name. Whatever choice you make, then click the button Yes, start enforcing protection.

Tip 04: Start enforcement

By clicking the button Yes, start enforcing protection you're not there yet. A new window will open warning that the document is not yet encrypted. Thus, malicious users can edit the file and even remove the password. So enter a password and click OK. Those who know the password can easily remove the protection and just work on the document. If you have designated specific people who can edit the document, select the Password option instead User Authentication. The document is now encrypted and you can send it to the rest of the group without any problems.

Word marks the text parts to be edited and the recipient can easily edit them

Tip 05: The others

But what does the other person see if you have partially exempted a text from editing? Word will highlight the text that can be edited. On the right, in the bar Restrict Editing, the recipient reads that this document is protected against accidental editing. In addition, two new wide buttons appear there. With the top button, Word always searches for the next part of text that may be edited. The second button points to all editable sections. In any case, the bottom option is wise: Mark the parts I can edit to leave it on.


If you want to unprotect such a document, you need to know the password. You may even need to appear in the list as the verified owner of the document. Go to the tab Check in the group To secure and click Restrict Editing. In the task pane, click Stop Protection and enter the correct password if prompted.

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