Protecting content in Microsoft Word with 'Restrict Editing'

 Jun 27, 2014

I often ask people "what is the main reason for converting a Microsoft Word document into a PDF?" One of the most common answers is “to stop people from changing the content – to protect it.” I then often unpleasantly surprise people by opening one of these PDFs in Adobe Acrobat and making some changes. It certainly makes it harder to change the content, and there’s a limit to how the content can be changed, but converting to PDF shouldn't be considered protecting the document. For this, Word has a feature under the 'Review' tab of the ribbon in the 'Protect' panel called 'Restrict Editing.' The document can be protected in two main ways below, which I'll further elaborate in this post.
  1. Formatting restrictions
  2. Editing restrictions

Protecting content in Microsoft Word with 'Restrict Editing'

Formatting restrictions in Microsoft Word

By limiting the formatting that can be done in a document, the main benefit is that only the styles that you want people to use are available. They aren’t able to do in-line formatting like manually applying font attributes or paragraph formats. You could even stop them from using any styles or formatting!

Editing restrictions in Microsoft Word

In the 'Restrict Editing' option, if you select 'Allow only this type of editing in the document,' you will see four choices:
  1. Tracked changes: the document can still be edited but tracked changes cannot be deactivated.
  2. Comments: the only change that can be made is that comments can be added.
  3. Filling in forms: only form fields and content controls can be edited.
  4. No changes (read only): this is the one for those folks who were converting to PDF to protect their document. As the title suggests, no changes can be made.
There are, however, some exceptions. For the 'Comments' and 'No changes (read only)' options, there is also the ability to add 'Exceptions.' That is, people may be able to edit certain designated areas. This can be anyone or restricted to a particular group or individual. To find out more about the protection of Word documents and the other great features, take a look at the New Horizons' Microsoft Word 2010 - Level 3 or Word 2013 - Level 3 courses.

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About the Author:

Ben Kirk  

With over 16 years of experience working as a Desktop Applications specialist for a number of large education services providers, Ben is one of New Horizons most skilled and dynamic instructors. With his Advanced Diploma of Business Skills alongside his practical experience and expertise, Ben is able to provide insight and guidance to students at all skill levels across the entire Microsoft Office suite.

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