For the last several weeks I’ve been struggling to find a way get Microsoft Word 2008 to allow for only specified sections of a document to be protected. I’ve used this feature in previous versions of Word and was shocked to find that it was, apparently, missing in 2008. Tonight, while looking through menu options, I found the answer to this problem and I wanted to take a moment to share my find.
The documents that I need apply this to are a series of Microsoft Word 2008 specific templates. This includes fax, letter, memo, etc. All of the documents require the use of form fields that allow the user to enter information and then tab to the next field. In order to be able to tab through the fields the document must be protected. This essentially freezes everything on the page except the contents of the form fields. The problem with this is that formatting can not be applied to the contents of form fields. The body of the documents require the use of all formatting functions. Also, spell checking does not function within protected documents.
Thankfully Microsoft has provided a solution to this problem through the use of continuous section breaks. Section breaks are intended to be used for inserting breaks for chapters and such without actually creating a page break. For the purpose of these templates, however the continuous section break will allow us to leave one or more sections of the document unprotected.
Start by creating the layout of the document. Use the”Forms” toolbar to insert Text Form Fields where tabbable fields will be needed.
When the layout of the document is complete with all styles applied and Text Form Fields inserted the next step is to determine which sections of the document will need to be protected and which will need to remain unprotected.
Once the appropriate continuous section breaks have been inserted the document can be protected. In order to choose which sections of the document will be protected you must navigate to the “Tools” drop-down menu, and then click on “Protect Document.” On the resulting dialog box choose the radio option for “Forms” and then click the “Sections” button. Another dialog box will appear which will allow you to select any or all of the existing document sections to be protected. Check the appropriate check-boxes and click “OK” on both dialog boxes to complete the protection process. At this point you should be able to tab through the Text Form Fields and enter information into each field without being able to disturb static information that is located in a protected section. The area in the unprotected sections of the document can be edited, formated, and modified as usual.
I have one remaining issue with with section protection in Microsoft Word 2008. While manual spell check will function perfectly well on the unprotected sections of the document, the Auto Spell Check will not. I am searching for a solution to this problem but it appears to be a bug in the software. I hope that Microsoft will address this issue in an upcoming software update.