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. ...

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What is two minus 2?

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.


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