There are various reasons why you may want to protect a document. Whatever the case, you may want to make a document read-only without requiring a password to open it. We’ll show you a few different methods of doing this.

The first method involves assigning a password to protect the document from being modified. We previously showed you two methods for assigning a password to open the document. Once you’ve accessed the “General Options” dialog box, you can assign a password to open and/or modify the document. If you enter a password in the “Password to modify” edit box but not in the “Password to open” edit box, the document will be opened read-only without the user having to enter a password. A password is only required if they try to make changes to the document.

Once you click “OK” on the “General Options” dialog box, the “Confirm Password” dialog box displays. Enter the password again in the “Reenter password to modify” edit box and click “OK”. You are returned to the “Save As” dialog box. Click “Save” to save the document with the password to modify.

When you open the document, the “Password” dialog box displays. You have the option of entering the password to be able to modify the document. However, anyone who doesn’t have the password can click “Read Only” to open the document in Read-Only mode. They can view and read the document, but they will not be able to make changes without knowing the password.

A second method of creating a read-only document that doesn’t require a password to open is to use the restrict editing feature. We’ve talked about restricting formatting and editing in Word before, but this time we’re going to use the restrict editing feature for a different purpose. Open the document you want to be opened as read-only and click the “Review” tab.

In the “Protect” section, click “Restrict Editing”.

NOTE: If the window is too small for the “Protect” section to display the two buttons in it, click the “Protect” button and click “Restrict Editing” from the drop-down box.

The “Restrict Editing” pane displays on the right side of the Word window. In the “Editing restictions” section, click the “Allow only this type of editing in the document” check box so there is a check mark in the box.

Select “Filling in forms” from the drop-down list.

Click “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection” at the bottom of the “Restrict Editing” pane.

On the “Start Enforcing Protection” dialog box, enter a password in the “Enter new password (optional)” edit box. Then, enter the same password in the “Reenter password to confirm” edit box and click “OK”.

To close the “Restrict Editing” pane, click the “X” in the upper-right corner of the pane.

The next time you open the document, it opens as read-only.

To open the document normally again, select “Edit Document” from the “View” menu.

The document is displayed normally again, but you still have to turn off the protection. To do this, click “Restrict Editing” in the “Protect” section of the “Review” tab again. Then, click “Stop Protection” at the bottom of the “Restrict Editing” tab.

On the “Unprotect Document” dialog box, enter the password in the “Password” edit box and click “OK”. Save the file again.

Another way to make a Word document read-only is to change an attribute on the file in Windows (not in Word). To do this, open Windows Explorer (or File Explorer in Windows 8.1 or 10) and navigate to the folder containing the file you want to make read-only. Select the file, right-click on it, and select “Properties” from the popup menu.

The “Properties” dialog box displays. Make sure the “General” tab is active. In the “Attributes” section, click the “Read-only” check box so there is a check mark in the box. Click “OK”.

The next time you open the document, it is automatically opened in Read-Only mode, as pictured at the beginning of this article. However, this last method does not guarantee your document will be opened as read-only. Anyone else can turn off the read-only attribute on the file in Windows as easily as you turned it on.

Profile Photo for Lori Kaufman Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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