by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 17, 2019)
Paul notes that an Excel workbook opened in Numbers (Apple) or Google Sheets (online) appears to have the password removed and all hidden columns available to be viewed. This is especially true with workbooks created in earlier versions of Excel. Later versions of Excel, beginning with Excel 2013, use advanced encryption techniques which make it more difficult to open protected Excel workbooks. Even so, Paul wonders if there is a way to hide columns or protect workbooks that Numbers and Google Sheets cannot unlock.
It appears that there is no way, Paul. Many programs (including Numbers and Sheets) can open Excel workbooks, and what they actually pay attention to and import varies from program to program. It is entirely possible that your hidden columns could suddenly be visible and simple password protection eliminated.
The only way around this is just that—a workaround. Most people who want to keep some of the data in a worksheet confidential will do one of two things. First, they might generate important information "on the fly" using macros. Most other programs (including Numbers and Sheets) don't do too well with Excel macros, so if the workbook is opened in those programs your macros are not executed and, therefore, the important information not generated.
The other workaround is to bypass Excel for distribution purposes. Instead, output your information to a format such as PDF which is great for viewing and printing while still protecting the underlying formulas and data.
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