Can’t edit a Word doc? Here are 7 quick fix solutions

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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Affiliate Disclosure

  • Microsoft Word is the world's most well-known text document editor, but it is still software after all.
  • The guide below will show you what to do if you cannot edit a Word document anymore.
  • Given the importance of Microsoft Office products, we created an entire Microsoft Office Fix Hub.
  • Need help with other PC-related problems? Visit our dedicated Fix section.
can't edit word document

There’s an ongoing debate about whether Microsoft Office, which includes Word, really has over 1 billion users.

Well, judging from the ease and user-friendly nature of Office programs, one might tend to believe this, but that’s beside the point.

Microsoft Word is one of the easiest, simplest and fastest programs to use to type, edit and save documents. It’s been in use for decades now, and still going.

But, there are some issues with Word that never go away, and users keep asking about them.

One of these issues is ‘Why can’t I edit a Word document?

If you’re experiencing this problem, check out some of the solutions you can use to fix it.

Quickest solution: Install File Viewer Plus (free)

Before starting to search for errors and problems inside your OS, we would recommend you to let a third-party software do the job for you. File Viewer Plus is a great tool that supports over 300 file types.

The latest version comes with support for Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Visio, and Project files. 

This is not just a file viewer, but a robust file editor and converter as well. Easily edit Microsoft Word documents and save your changes.

The only thing you have to do is download it, set it up and open/edit your files with it. It will also help you with other files whenever you will need to.

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What to do is Microsoft Word won’t edit documents

1. Unblock the document from Properties

  • Save the document to your computer or hard drive
  • Right-click on the document icon
  • Select Properties
  • Click Unblock

If this doesn’t apply, try the next solution.

2. Use an alternative to Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is indeed the go-to solution for opening word documents, but when if it starts causing issues for you, an alternative software may be your only choice.

For example, WPS Office is very similar to Microsoft Office, except that most of its features are 100% free of charge, with only the most advanced features being hidden behind a paywall.

More so, those of you that have been using Microsoft WOrd all of their life will love how familiar WPS Office’s UI feels, allowing you to start working with it without needing help or a tutorial.

So, if you want to open, view, and even perform some degree of editing on a word document, go ahead and use WPS Office without hesitation.

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3. Use Word Online

microsoft word online

This solution works when you do not have Microsoft Office installed locally on your machine. In this case do the following:

  • Upload the file to a cloud program such as Microsoft’s OneDrive
  • Edit the document using Word Online

Note: Word Online doesn’t have all the features of Microsoft Office’s completely installed program.

Word Online also not working? Check out this guide and solve the issues quickly.

4. Check if you’re using a Trial Version

Sometimes Word cannot execute certain functions owing to the use of a trial version of Microsoft Office, which has expired.

In this case, you end up having reduced functionality on not just Word, but other programs as well. During this phase, you won’t have access to most commands, and so you cannot create, or edit, or even save documents.

You can only view and print them.

If you’re using a trial version, which has now expired, purchase a full Microsoft Office version, install, and activate it to continue enjoying Word.

5. Use Undo (CTRL+Z)

In the event you notice that your text is highlighted or ‘frozen’, this happens when the text is converted to a field. In this case, you can Undo or press Ctrl button and Z at the same time.

Check also the Undo arrow at the top menu to see whether you had previously inserted a field. If this is the case, then Undo will resolve the issue.

Otherwise unlink the field using CTRL+SHIFT+F9.

6. Assign permissions/Remove protection

There are instances when you open a document which has Editing Restrictions from earlier Word versions, and as such you cannot edit the document whether you have password permissions to it or not.

This issue happens whenever password protection is given to protect a Word document, but not when using Information Rights Management.

Alternatively, you can use a good password manager from our list to avoid this issue.

Thankfully, versions from 2003 onward, let you assign permissions to particular parts of a document for particular users, which when used, makes the content read-only to some users.

Opening a file of this nature using earlier versions opens it under ‘protected’ status, which lets users comment but cannot edit.

In order to remove such protections, here are the steps you can take:

For Word 2013, 2010

  • Click File
  • Choose Options
  • Click Trust Center on the left pane
  • Locate Trust Center Settings and click on it
  • On the left pane, click Protected View
  • Uncheck all three boxes under Protected View
  • Click Ok

For Word 2007

  • Click Review
  • Click Protect Document
  • Under Protect group, click Restrict Formatting and Editing
  • Click Stop Protection

For Word 2003

  • Go to the Tools menu
  • Click Unprotect

7. Check if another user has the document open

Sometimes the document you are trying to edit has been locked for editing by another user.

This happens whenever someone owns the file, or you are trying to use a document that’s on a shared network, and another user has it opened.

If this is the case for you, note that these steps may vary based on your version of Microsoft Windows:

  • Save all work you have open
  • Quit all programs
  • Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to open Windows Security
  • Click Task Manager
  • Click Processes
  • Click Winword.exe then End Process
  • Click Yes under the Task Manager Warning box

If a message prompt comes up that the program is not responding, click End now then continue with the following steps:

  • Go to File
  • Click Exit Task Manager
  • Start Windows Explorer and go to the folder with the Word document you wanted to edit
  • Delete the file owner (a .doc file that looks like this: ~$cument.doc that is found in the same folder as the document you want to edit)
  • Open Word
  • Click No if asked to load changes made to the template
  • Open your Word document

Did these solutions work for you? Or maybe there’s a specific issue you’re having with Word? Share with us and we’ll endeavor to help you.

Word issues are ruining your work? Check out these alternatives to Microsoft Office!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been since revamped and updated in August 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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