Protecting a Workbook from Opening in Other Programs

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 17, 2019)

2

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.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12902) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Setting User Information

Need to change the information that Word stores about you? Here's how to find the info.

Discover More

Freezing Cell Size when Inserting Pictures

Insert a picture into a table cell, and you may quickly find that the table is no longer the size you expected. Here's ...

Discover More

Getting Pictures Out of Word

If you receive a Word document from someone, you may want to get any graphics it contains into their own files. You can ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Saving a Workbook Using Passwords

If you want to protect your workbook so that others cannot open or change the information it contains, an easy way to ...

Discover More

Removing Protection from a Protected Workbook

Excel provides built-in capabilities to protect your workbook files. If you apply these capabilities, it is possible that ...

Discover More

Always Opening a Workbook that is Editable

When you send a workbook to a coworker, it can be bothersome if that person has problems using what you created. There is ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four more than 3?

2019-08-20 11:35:43

Mike

Anthony

I cannot see this as a satisfactory solution. Macros would have to be allowed if the file was opened in Excel, and anyway would almost certainly fail to run if the file was opened with one of the other applications mentioned here.
The only certain way to conceal information from prying eyes is not to include it in the first place.
Maintain two versions. Delete the hidden columns from the shared/published version, and if the contents in the hidden columns are required and referenced by formulae, then convert those formulae to their calculated values and then delete the columns.


2019-08-19 08:15:12

Anthony

(while no solution is entirely foolproof...) At workbook open, could one not simply use VBA to determine Application/Version (and OS) and make a call from there? If Excel is not running, close the file.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.