Making Word documents dead-only?

Subject: Making Word documents dead-only?
From: Geoff hart <ghart -at- attcanada -dot- ca>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Shweta G Bhatia'" <shwetagbhatia -at- dominomail -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 10:08:43 -0400

Shweta Bhatia wonders << to make a document as read-only. This is because
I do not want the reader to make any chnages in the document when he receives

Can't be done. Yes, you can password protect a Word document, or save it to
disk and tag it as "read only", or create a PDF file from the document, but in
each case, there's a simple workaround that will let a determined reader make
the document editable. (Simple is a relative term; you can get password
crackers for both Word and Acrobat free on the Web, which will take a bit more
work; in contrast, the way to make a read-only document editable is to open it,
then do "save as". Or open it in another package, such as WordPerfect. And even
then, you can usually do "select all" and "copy" to paste the document into
another, editable document.)

The better question is why you want to make it uneditable. If it's
documentation, that may be doing the reader a disservice (e.g., what if the
person wants to annotate the file?), or it may be protecting you from liability
(e.g., if the person deletes all cautions and notes, and proceeds to hurt
themselves or lose data as a result). In the former case, you probably
shouldn't make it read-only at all; in the latter, you should distribute
printed documentation so that there's no way for someone to edit the document
without taking responsibility for those edits. If it's a question of doing
technical reviews, the solution is to communicate clearly that you have no
intention of accepting reviews that were not done in such a way as you can find
them and respond; if someone edits without leaving a trace, return the document
and tell them to do it again. See the trend? Find out why you don't want the
document edited, and you're halfway to a solution.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- netcom -dot- ca
"Most business books are written by consultants and professors who haven't
spent much time in a cubicle. That's like writing a firsthand account of the
Donner party based on the fact that you've eaten beef jerky."--Scott Adams, The
Dilbert Principle

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