I’m running Microsoft Word on my Mac OS X system and would like to save my journal locked or otherwise password protected so that someone would need to know the secret passkey to read or modify it. Is it possible to encrypt or encipher my Word docs without too much hassle on my MacBook?
Sounds shady, if you ask me! Shall we ask the Department of Homeland Security to get involved?
Just kidding. I have a number of files encrypted on my own laptop just in case anyone were to ever get ahold of it. Notably, the data files and spreadsheets associated with my tax returns each year, along with any other legal documents, are all safely encrypted so I can bring them with when I’m on the road, knowing that nothing bad can happen to them.
Microsoft Word has the ability to lock down files either for editing or for reading, but it’s surprisingly unintuitive to figure out how to accomplish that. The problem is that there’s no handy “lock” or “protect” or “encrypt” button on the save dialog, where it should be.
Instead, when you’re editing a file, you probably gravitate to the reasonably named “Restrict Permissions” option:
Do that, however, and unless you’re in a big corporation where someone from IT has popped by to set things up, you’ll just get a baffling error message:
Like I said, if you don’t have a big company, well, that just isn’t the path to being able to securely manage your Word document. Why it doesn’t say “click here to configure” is beyond me, but I’m not in Redmond, and, probably, neither are you.
Turns out the answer is in the options of the Save dialog. But in a very unobvious way.
Click on “Save As…” to get to the save dialog window:
At this point, click on “Options…” to open up the save options window:
Okay, so where’s the encryption / password protection option? It’s not here.
That’s what I mean. Why isn’t it?
To find it, a bit of detective work is required.
Click on “Show All” on the top of this window and you’ll see all the different Word settings, with just about all of them greyed out:
The option you want is “Security”. It’s one of the two possible options here. And gosh, it’s so obvious.
Click on “Security” and you’ve found the secret place where you can specify passwords:
At this point I suggest you enter a password to open and a different one to modify, if you want to let some people read what you’ve written but not others, yet not let anyone modify your actual journal entries.
There are a few more things you might consider modifying too, especially “Remove personal information from this file on save” which gets rid of all the tracking info that trips up those scofflaws in politics who don’t realize their digital fingerprints are hidden in docs.
Here are the settings I use:
Click on “OK” and Word will ask you to confirm the passwords. But in a confusing way (because it should really ask you to confirm when you first enter it).
In fact, it’s only the window title that tells you what’s going on because more likely than not you already have the file open behind the dialog box:
Anyway, enter your open password, and, if you also set a modify password, enter that too:
Now save the document and you’ll see its icon on the Desktop has changed:
Better yet, quit Microsoft Word and double-click on the new file icon:
That’s what you want. Just make sure you don’t forget the password and remove any previous versions of the file that might be laying around on your computer. Then you’re safe and don’t have to worry about prying eyes.