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View/read only Excel workbooks - how?

View/read only Excel workbooks - how?

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I have built a financial model and need to provide a copy to a 3rd party for due diligence purposes.

Is there a way of saving a 'copy' that the 3rd party will only be able to 1) open the workbook, 2) view the contents and cell data such as formula, and 3) click through the tabs, 4) not be able to edit in anyway or save another copy that would be capable of editing. Basically, you can 'look but don't touch'.

The model is quite big. 65 sites workbooks (w/b) each with 8 sheet/tabs, which feeds into a region level w/b. There are 6 regions. The 6 regions then feeds into a corporate level w/b. The 65 sites and its region is held in folder. The six regions folders feed into 1 corporate w/b. All the aforementioned are contained within 1 folder which is what I propose to give to the 3rd party.

It was suggested to me that I had to protect on a sheet by sheet basis. Collectively there are over 3,150 individual tabs/sheets and so I do not see this as a practical solution.

I need to have this secured copy ready by close of play tomorrow (Wednesday 19th) so any glimmer of a swift solution would be enormously appreciated.

Many thanks

Replies (12)

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Replying to mr. mischief:
By mung1
19th Mar 2014 08:48

not working


I have tried this and the read only version still permits changes. Also the instructions seem to geared towards Word and not Excel. Particularly the section "Restrict formatting and editing".

Thanks (0)
19th Mar 2014 09:25

Lock cells and Protect sheet is the only way, I think

Given the structure of your model I do not think there is any practical solution for you.

I also understand the security on these passwords is suspect / easily bypassed.

Thanks (0)
By ShirleyM
19th Mar 2014 09:12

Passwords can be easily broken

There are freebies on the internet to do just that.

I never did find a way of fully locking an Excel spreadsheet. We used to have our own bookkeeping spreadsheet, which I spent hours designing, and we protected the worksheets and workbooks, but it would often come back from the client with the protection removed and the formulas screwed up. If you send out a copy just be aware that it can be plagiarised, and I personally don't know a way of stopping it.

I think it may be possible to protect your work through use of VBA and add-ins, but that's a whole new ball game.

Thanks (1)
By mrme89
19th Mar 2014 09:35


I don't have time to play about with excel to test it but try...


Tools > Options > Security > Read Only & Password Protect



Thanks (0)
By stepurhan
19th Mar 2014 09:45

Don't send the spreadsheet

"Print" out each spreadsheet as PDFs and send those instead. You can select "Entire workbook" as a print option, so you don't have to do each tab individually, just each spreadsheet.

See this recent thread on PDF printers

Thanks (0)
By slarti
10th Apr 2014 12:05

It is not perfect, but

Ensure that all cells are locked through formatting.


Then in Review select Protect Sheet, give it a password that you can remember and click OK

Now type Alt+F11 to open the VBA Window then select Tools, VBAProject Properties, Protection.

Tick Lock Project for Viewing and give it a password.


I have found that doing this last step disabled 2 commercial password crackers in Excel 2007 and 2010, when someone did not want to pay me for making changes to something I had set up.


But, unless you want the 3rd party to be able to see the underlying numbers and formulas, I would print to PDF.


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By Jeremy.t
10th Apr 2014 12:07

why secure it?

Why are you trying to protect it?

I assume you have NDA's and this model is unique to the business.

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By asillahi
11th Apr 2014 15:07

Protect the s'sheet

Does protecting the s'sheet not help. This allows them to view but not make changes, basically locks it down.

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By paulwakefield1
11th Apr 2014 15:50

Far too late in the day

but a few thoughts:

a) Save the file as a pdf. Select all the sheets and "Save as" a pdf. Advantages: Quick, cracks most of your problems. Disadvantages: Need to set up printing on each sheet and some sheets may be too unwieldy, will not be able to see formulae, only available in Excel 2007 onwards.

b) Protect all the sheets with a password and protect the workbook with a password. Either you are faced with a very loang task as you have identified or you will nee to use vba (a very simple macro will do it all for you) or use an add-in such as ASAP Utilities which includes a multiple sheet protection option. Advantages: Achieves what you want Disadvantage: passwords are easily broken.

However I have found the Excel 2013 passwords very robust and they may be sufficient if you have the latest version. (Others may have more experience at cracking them).

Also lock the project as slarti recommends.

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By Cantona1
11th Apr 2014 15:52

You can protect any work book with VBA password, but there are lots of people who offer you to crack VBA password for a small fee. It is difficult to protect all MS products if some one is determined to by pass any security wall.


Thanks (0)
By paulwakefield1
11th Apr 2014 16:03


they are impossible to make wholly secure against the determined. And I certainly wouldn't recommend using a macro which either includes the password itself or which is left in the model.

But I would be interested to know what people's experience with XL2013 is - it seems to be much more secure - my normal password crackers have yet to work on one.

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