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Psst… What’s The Password?

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 by | Filed Under: MS Excel, MS Word

Psst… What’s The Password?

Have you ever had a MS Word or Excel file that you just didn’t want anyone to read? Or maybe it was OK for them to read it but not change it.

I know I have a few of these. Being a teacher it’s nice to be able to protect files containing tests. You know, just in case a student gets in them.

Anyway, I’m sure most of us can think of at least one file that we would like to protect from others. So the big question becomes… How do we lock the files up?

Well, believe it or not, it’s all in the save.

The save?

Yep—you can set a password when you save.

Now that you know where we’ll take care of business let’s get to it.

First you’ll need to open the file that should not be either changed or read by anyone else.

Now you’ll need to go to the File menu, Save As choice. (Alt, F then A will also accomplish this task.)

Of course, you’ll need to name the file if it hasn’t been previously saved and then move on to the setting of a password.

If you’re using either Word or Excel 97 you’ll need to look for the Options button on the right-hand side of the Save As window.


If you’re using a newer version of Word or Excel then you’re looking for the Tools menu, General Options choice in the Save As window..


Either way, once you locate the appropriate place you’ll be taken to a window where you can set the necessary password.

In MS Word you’re looking for the File sharing options section at the bottom.


In Excel you’ll be given a small window for File sharing options.


In either program you’ll have several choices.

  • One choice is to put a password in the Password to open field. This will require anyone who wishes to open the file to supply the correct password. In other words, no password – no access to the file!
  • Another choice is to use the Password to modify field. By entering a password here someone will have to supply the correct password to open the file and make changes to be saved under the current file name.

    If the user does not have the password then they can open the file as read-only. This will allow the user to open the file but does not allow changes to be saved under the current file name.

    (Yes – as the above statement implies – they could make changes and save the file under a new name but they won’t be able to overwrite your original file.)

  • Finally, you have to decide about the Read-only recommended box. If you check the box then the program will prompt the person opening the file to make a choice between opening the file as read-only or as a file that can be modified and saved.

Once you decide how you need to protect your file you’ll need to enter a password in the appropriate box.

Your password should be no more than 15 characters long. You need to remember the password in order to prevent yourself from being locked out of the file.

Passwords are also case sensitive, so enter it carefully. Capital letters are treated differently from small letters. (This allows for very unique passwords but can be a huge pain if you’re forgetful, like I tend to be, and unknowingly have the caps lock on.)

Once you enter your password click OK.

A window will open requiring you to re-enter the password. This will help you to confirm that you’ve not made any mistakes in typing.

You’ll then be returned to the Save As window where you’ll need to click the Save button.

I’ve got just a couple more things before I go.

I must warn you to not forget your password – especially if you need it to open the file. You must have it or you’re not getting back into that file.

Keeping a secure list of passwords is not a bad idea if you tend to use different passwords on many different files.

And finally, to remove a password from a file you’ll need to open it and go back through the same process with one difference. This time, instead of entering a password, go in and delete the password. Then click OK and proceed with saving the file.

Poof! It’s back to it’s original unprotected state.

And that’s it! Now you too can protect your files from prying eyes and would-be file changers. (If only it was so easy to protect the house and car… sorry, wandered into that wishful-thinking place again.)

~ April

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