Protecting a Workbook from Opening in Other Programs

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 18, 2014)

3

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. He 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, and 2013.

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

Deleting Index Entries

When you construct an index you need to insert all sorts of index fields throughout your document. If you want to later ...

Discover More

Selecting Fonts for a Chart

When formatting a chart, you might want to change the characteristics of the font used in various chart elements. This can be ...

Discover More

Using the INFO Field

The INFO field allows you to include all sorts of information in your document. Here's a quick overview of the field and what ...

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

Protecting an Entire Workbook

Want to stop other people from making unauthorized changes to your workbook? Excel provides a way that you can protect the ...

Discover More

Protecting an Entire Folder of Workbooks

Want to protect the Excel information stored in a particular folder on your system? There are a number of ways you can ...

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 4 + 2?

2014-01-20 09:33:32

Don

Similar to Alec's approach, I several projects where, at the end of the reporting cycle, I use a series of macros

The first macro removes all datalinks and formulas then adds the worksheet/workbook locks and performs a SaveAs with a name change (e.g. <file name> & " - Published " & <yyyy-mm-dd>). Finally, based on the call, the file may be moved into a compressed folder.

The second macro does the distribution. Actually there are two "second" macros. One generates emails, the other saves to network or SharePoint folders.


2014-01-20 02:07:43

Shreepad S M Gandhi

Some google search revealed that Excel workbooks saved as 'Excel 2003' format get opened in 'Google Docs' and 'Open Office' programs. Later Microsoft realised this. Excel 2007, 2010, 2013 follow a data encryption philosophy while protecting Excel Workbooks. THIS IS TRUE. I tried to open a Excel 2010 wb in Google Docs. It failed with a message, "This spreadsheet is password protected. Can't be opened."
However Microsoft themselves have a workaround to get rid of Password retrieval failures. However, at least today, it is as difficult as to make a atomic weapon just by knowing 'Uranium is used to make a atomic bomb'. :)

Those interested may visit

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj923033.aspx

It is better to think of alternative strategies while sharing confidential info or any data that you wish to keep unhampered. One preliminary solution is to design / plan / display the output of your calculations in a way such as only the output would be of interest to the recipient and not how it was achieved. After you are done, make a .pdf of the output file before publishing. And if it is still more important, hard printout the output data and photoscan it followed by publishing.

At least the calculations would remain free of getting disclosed as intended.


2014-01-19 15:37:31

Alec Whatmough

Another option is to create a dummy sheet that links to the master. This one will only contain the data that needs to be displayed, so there are no hidden columns, rows or cells.
If you do this, it would be sensible to include a Before_Close macro that selects the dummy sheet and saves the file, so you don't accidentally distribute the file with the wrong sheet displayed.


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.