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Whether you’re sharing your document or working on it alone, unintentional edits can happen. Luckily, Google Docs gives you a simple way to avoid mistaken keystrokes, accidental deletions, and other unintended edits with a view-only mode.

Use Viewing Mode When Working Alone

If you’re presenting your document to others or simply reviewing it yourself, you can enter Viewing mode easily. This makes the document unchangeable and the menu condensed.

On the top right of the document toolbar, click the drop-down arrow next to Editing (or the pencil icon)  and select “Viewing.” You can also go to View > Mode in the menu and choose “Viewing.”

Select Viewing in the Editing drop-down list

You’ll immediately see that you’ve changed modes with a brief “You’re Viewing” message at the bottom. You’ll also notice a compact menu with only a few options like seeing the word count or a print preview.

Google Docs in viewing mode

This prevents you from making any changes to the document.

When you finish using this mode, click the eye icon drop-down box and choose “Editing.” Alternatively, you can go to View > Mode in the menu and select “Editing.”

Select Editing in the Viewing drop-down list

Use Viewing Mode When Sharing

When you share a Google Doc, you can allow others to make changes. This is ideal if you’re collaborating on the document. But if you want someone you’re sharing with to only have viewing permission and not make changes, this is doable as well.

You can change the sharing permission to a view-only mode at the time you share the document or afterward. Plus, you can adjust the permission if you’re simply sharing the link.

Set Up Sharing as View-Only

To share your document, click “Share” on the top right. After you enter the person you want to share with, click the drop-down box on the right and select “Viewer.”

Share a document as Viewer

You can then continue to share the document as you normally would.

Change Sharing to View-Only

If you’ve already shared your document, you can change the permission to view-only after the fact.

Click “Share” at the top. Then, to the right of a person in the list, click the drop-down box, and pick “Viewer.”

Change sharing to Viewer

Be sure to click “Save” to apply the change. You’ll see a “Pending Changes” message until you do.

Restrict Link Access to View-Only

If you’ve obtained a link to your document to share it with others, you can make everyone who accesses the link a viewer instead of an editor.

Click “Share” at the top. Then, click “Change” in the Get Link section of the pop-up window.

On the right side, click the Editor drop-down arrow and choose “Viewer.”

Select Viewer

Click “Done” to save your changes.

To protect your document from unwanted edits, view-only is the way to go. Whether for yourself or others you’re sharing with, remember viewing mode in Google Docs. If you’re new to the application, check out our beginner’s guide to Google Docs for additional tips.

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Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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