How to Restrict What an Editor Can Modify in a Word 2013 Document

Word 2013 can prevent unwanted changes from proofreaders and collaborators with Editing Restrictions. Here’s how to set up and use Format and Editing restrictions.

Microsfot Word 2013 restriction guidePrevious version of Microsoft Word offered a set of review features that greatly enhanced collaboration, and Word 2013 improves upon it. Whether it’s a proofreader, colleague, tutor, or teacher, when you’re working with someone else on a document you might want to prevent them from rewriting or changing what you’ve written.

In most cases, it’s useful to just to use the Track Changes feature to monitor what’s being changed in a document. But sometimes you need to lock down the document further. Here’s how.

In Word 2013 open up the Review tab on the Ribbon.

review ribbon word 2013

Then select Protect and the Restrict Editing button.

restrict editing under the protection category

Formatting Restrictions in Word 2013

There’s two different types of restrictions that you can place on document editing. The first involves styles and formatting. This is the more minor of restrictions, and only prevents changes to the way that a document looks. In the formatting restrictions window there are a lot of different options to choose from. For the most part, this set of restrictions isn’t hugely important.

If you’d like to learn more about styles in Microsoft Word, this short and free Microsoft course will help you out.

formatting restrictions

Editing Restrictions in Word 2013

The second type of restriction that you can place on Word documents are those related to overall editing. As said earlier, for most collaboration projects it is simply enough to enforce “Tracked Changes.” However, when needed, such as when working with a tutor, you may want to only allow comments on a document. And when creating corporate documents you may want to only allow users to add to embedded fillable forms. For the most extreme circumstances there is the option to make the document Read only, and no changes can be retained.

editing restrictions

Once you’ve decided which restrictions that you want to employ, click the “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection” button to apply this security to the document.

You’ll be prompted to set up a password, or opt for User authentication.

start enforcementprotection method

The password route is the simplest way to go, and as a result, the restrict editing sidebar will immediately change. Instead of options, you’ll see what permissions are allowed and a “Stop Protection” button which allows you to enter the password and unlock the document.

unprotected document password unlock

If you opt for User authentication you’ll likely see the error:

Your machine is not configured for Information Rights Management (IRM). If you need to use IRM sign in to Office or contact your administrator.

This can be fixed by enabling IRM on the computer, and full documentation on that process is available for that via technet. Unfortunately, the instructions on technet can be a bit confusing to the average user – so stay tuned for a groovypost guide on this in the near future.

IRM error



  1. Steve Krause

    January 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Very hand tip for passing a contract back and forth and other legal work. Nice!

  2. Mike

    July 19, 2015 at 3:19 am

    There appears to be a BIG problem with this.

    I have created some forms with restricted editing which work well when opened in word on a PC.

    However if I email the form, when the recipient opens the document/template on their mobile device all restrictions are gone.

  3. Liz Boehm

    May 30, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I could always save with the “fill in the blanks” before and others could access without a password. What has changed?

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