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Stop Protection

Most of you will be familiar with this problem: You receive a protected Word file but you need to make changes to it. Nobody knows the password or is willing to find out. Before you give in and try to download one of the numerous utilities available on the Internet (and in the course of it probably catch some bug), there is a simpler solution.

Yesterday, I had to fill out an application document. It had carefully been manipulated so that only certain areas could be filled out – and only with content of a certain length. The fields were, of course, way too small. That is the problem with input masks: They are only as good as the designers foresight. And you just know that it is usually not informed by the bigger picture.

The document was a .docx file. I went to the Review tab, clicked on Restrict Editing, and selected Stop Protection at the bottom of the column on the right. An Unprotect Document dialog box popped up, requiring a password. I didn’t have that password. The document restrictions also made it impossible to copy the whole document into a new one, which I thought of first as a possible remedy. So what to do?

Well, it turns out that you only have to follow some very simple steps. You save the .docx file as a Word 97-2003 Document and close it. The file now has the extension .doc. Re-open the .doc file, go to the Review tab and click on Restrict Editing. When you click on Stop Protection now, the whole document becomes editable and no password is necessary.

I could now fill out the form without length restrictions. But I was also reminded once more that locking or encryption functions built into every-day software are not all that secure. You’d never want to rely on them to protect really sensitive material.

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2 Responses to “Stop Protection”

  1. N* says:

    Very nice hack! Will definitely use this in the future. Take that microsoft! Now what about PDFs?

  2. Great tip, thanks,
    will try it next time i need to unprotect a .docx file.
    @N* for unprotecting PDFs, in the past i used a couple times the PDFUnlock! Website, it worked for me.

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