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No! You Can’t Change My File!

No! You Can’t Change My File!

Have you ever created a file that was basically a form—something someone else could fill in and save under a different name—but not change the original form?

Or maybe you have a file you repeatedly fill out and want to prevent yourself from saving over the original.

Previously we’ve discussed passwords for files and that is one option for the situation.

But is there another way? One that doesn’t throw up all the warning screens that passwords create.

Yes there is. (What else would you expect me to say at this point?)

In fact, today’s tip comes from a situation I encountered at work just last week.

At school, we needed a form for our curriculum mapping—something that every teacher would use to record the curriculum for every subject they teach.

As traditional thinkers go, they wanted me to produce a form that everyone could use to write in the information.

Of course, that just wouldn’t do.

In my mind, most people wouldn’t want to spend the time hand writing their curriculum. I figured that if I was going to make the form in an MS Word table, then there was no reason why we couldn’t enter our information in MS Word as well.

Once the idea was out there, it seemed easy. I design the form and then save the file on disk to distribute to the staff.

Sounds easy—right?

It is, except there was one catch: since the staff would have several maps to complete, I had to make the file so that the staff couldn’t destroy the original form.

You see, I have a staff with varied computer experience—that includes some who need to be told to look on the A: drive to get a file from a disk. So, for this reason, I needed to lock the form down to make it so they couldn’t destroy the blank form.

My first thought was to make a template.

However, I found that it didn’t work. Word would allow changes to be saved in the template when it was on a disk. Exactly what I was trying to avoid!

I thought about using the passwords available in the Options of the Save window—but I was trying to avoid that. The password warnings and pop up screens would have confused some of the staff.

I needed something clean and easy—something that any of them could navigate.

And then it came to me—make the file read-only.

Not read-only with the save passwords, but actually change the properties of the file so that they couldn’t save over the original.

It turned out to be the perfect solution—worked like a dream last week.

So, I figured that if it worked so well for me then it might be a solution for someone else.

Enough with the “what” we’re going to do—let’s get to the doing.

The first thing I did was to complete the form as I needed it. In other words, I made it perfect (or as close to it as I could get).

Then I saved the file.

Now, close the file.

Next you’ll need to navigate to the file—not within an MS Office program—but through Windows Explorer or the My Computer icon.

However you like to navigate through your files you need to find the file you just saved.

Got it?


Now right-click on the file.


The pop up menu should have the Properties choice at the bottom. Select Properties.

The “Properties” window will open.

On the General tab you’re looking for the Read-only choice in the Attributes section.


Check it.

Then click OK.

Now every time the file is opened it’s safe. If the person who opens it tries to save over the file they’ll be warned that it’s a read-only file and prompted to save their work with a new name.

You should probably note that you’ll have to go back out and uncheck the Read-only attribute in order to modify your file, but it’s a small price to pay for file security.

~ April