Working with Others on the Same Master Document

You've learned that master documents can simplify collaboration. You can delegate parts of your document for others to edit while working on other elements yourself; then when you're ready, you can review and edit the document as a whole.

By default, Word gives you complete access to any subdocument of which you are the author (assuming that the subdocument is stored in a folder you have rights to access). Word gives you more limited access to subdocuments you did not author.


Word determines who the author is by looking in the Author field of the File, Properties dialog box. How does the name of the author get there in the first place? It comes from the information you gave Word when you installed it (or changes you've made since in the User Information tab of the Tools, Options dialog box).

To make sure that your colleagues have priority in accessing the documents for which they're responsible, you can enter their names in the Properties dialog box of each subdocument. Remember that if you give other users priority over yourself, you won't be able to edit their submissions until they finish working and close the files.

If you did not author a subdocument, you may find that it is locked when you try to open it. You can tell that a subdocument is locked when a small padlock icon appears beneath the subdocument icon (see Figure 19.10).

Figure 19.10. The padlock icon appears whenever a subdocument is locked.


When you first open a master document, displaying subdocuments as hyperlinks, all subdocuments are locked, no matter who authored them. If you click Expand Subdocuments, the Lock icons disappear, except in the following cases:

  • If someone else is already working on a subdocument and you attempt to open it, Word displays a message offering you several options. You can create a copy to work on; if you do so, the words "Read Only" appear in the title bar of the document you create. When you then save the copy, you're prompted to save it in another location, and Word adds the phrase "'original name'?for merge" to the name in the title bar. Later, you can merge changes from your local copy into the original.

    Alternatively, you can wait until the first user has finished; Word will notify you when the original copy becomes available.

  • When the subdocument's author saves it as Read-Only Recommended, using the check box in the Security Options dialog box. (This dialog box is accessible by choosing File, Save As; then clicking the Tools button and choosing Security Options.) When you try to open a Read-Only Recommended file, Word displays a dialog box asking, in effect, whether you want to respect this preference. You can click No and edit the document.

  • When the subdocument's author has established a Password to Modify, also using options in the Security Options dialog box. You can read this subdocument, but you can't edit it without knowing the password.

  • When the subdocument is stored in a shared folder to which you have only Read-Only rights. Again, you can read the file, but you can't edit it unless you convince your network administrator to upgrade your rights. The words "Read Only" appear in the title bar of a read-only document.

If a subdocument is locked, you can attempt to unlock it like this:

  1. Open the master document, display it in Outline view, and click the Master Document View button.

  2. Click Expand Subdocuments. (Until you expand your subdocuments, they're all locked.)

  3. If the subdocument you want to edit is still locked, click anywhere in it.

  4. Click the Lock Document button on the Master Document toolbar. (If the file is in use, Word displays a message that the file cannot be opened with write privileges.)

If the document remains locked, you may need to contact the individual using it and ask him to close the document. A last resort is to copy the contents into another document, add that document as a subdocument, and remove the subdocument that caused the problem.

Locking Others Out of a Master Document or Subdocument

If you own a master document or subdocument, you can lock others out of it. To lock a master document, click anywhere in the master document (not in a subdocument); then click the Lock Document button on the Outlining toolbar. To lock a subdocument, click in the subdocument; then click the Lock Document button. To unlock a master document or subdocument you own, click the Lock Document button again to toggle locking off.

Locking a master document does the following:

  • Makes the master document read-only (though subdocuments can still be edited by those who have the right to do so).

  • Disables the following buttons on the Outlining toolbar: Create Subdocument, Remove Subdocument, Insert Subdocument, Merge Subdocument, Split Subdocument.

Note that when you lock a master document and then save it, the lock is removed, and the file can be opened "writable." The same applies to manually locked subdocuments. In short, locking a file is not a significant security protection. If your goal is security, use passwords or Word 2003's Information Rights Management (both covered in Chapter 33).

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word