Managing Protected View in Excel 2010/2013

By David H. Ringstrom, CPA

As you migrate to Excel 2010 or 2013, you may sometimes encounter spreadsheets that open in a special Protected View mode. You can view - but not edit - such documents until you grant permission within an onscreen prompt. I'll explain Protected View and how you can adjust this security measure to suit your needs.
By default, Microsoft Excel 2010 and later assume that files opened from the Internet, e-mail attachments, or other certain locations could contain malicious programming code. Accordingly, Excel opens such documents in a special mode known as Protected View, which enables you to view, but not edit, the spreadsheet. You're notified of Protected View by way of the security prompt shown in Figure 1. 
You'll notice that Excel's ribbon user interface is collapsed as well, since virtually all functionality in Excel is disabled except for navigating the workbook and copying selected cells to the clipboard. If you wish to edit the spreadsheet, you must click the Enable Editing button shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Protected View allows you to safely review documents of unknown provenance.
There are two ways to get to the settings that determine when Protected View is automatically invoked. If you open a document in Protected View, you can click on File, Info, and then choose Protected View Settings as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: The Info option in Excel 2010 and 2013 allows easy access to Protected View settings.
Alternatively, you can carry out the steps shown in Figure 3, which are more involved:
  • Choose File, and then Options.
  • Within the Options window, choose Trust Center, and then click the Trust Center Settings button.
  • Within the Trust Center Settings, choose Protected View, and make any adjustments necessary, and then click OK twice.
Figure 3: You can also access the Protected View settings through Excel's Options dialog box.
Thirty-two-bit versions of Excel 2010 offer an additional check box labeled Enable Data Execution Prevention Mode. This option was removed from Excel 2013 and does not appear in 64-bit versions of Excel 2010. This setting prevents poorly written programming code in Excel add-ins from potentially crashing your computer and should always be left enabled. Data Execution Prevention cannot be disabled in Excel 2013.
Keep in mind that you can manually open files in Protected View. To do so:
  • Press Ctrl+O to launch Excel's Open dialog box. 
  • Click once on the name of a document.
  • Choose Open in Protected View from the Open button's menu, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: You can manually open unknown documents in Protected View in Excel 2010 and later.
Read more articles by David Ringstrom. 
About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.



You may like these other stories...

Whenever I speak to accountants about creating a cloud practice, the most common question is, “How do I charge my clients?” Ten years ago, maybe even five years ago, if I would’ve posed this question...
While reputational risk is the No. 1 nonfinancial concern among corporate directors, cybersecurity/IT risk is gaining steam. In fact, both private companies and organizations with more than $1 billion in revenue felt they...
Accountants who specialize in forensic and valuation services point to electronic data analysis, or big data, as the most pressing issue they’ll face in the coming months, according to results of a new survey released...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 31
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom helps beginners get up to speed in Microsoft Excel. However, even experienced Excel users will learn some new tricks, particularly when David discusses under-utilized aspects of Excel.
Aug 5
This webcast will focus on accounting and disclosure policies for various types of consolidations and business combinations.
Aug 20
In this session we'll review best practices for how to generate interest in your firm’s services.
Aug 21
Meet budgets and client expectations using project management skills geared toward the unique challenges faced by CPAs. Kristen Rampe will share how knowing the keys to structuring and executing a successful project can make the difference between success and repeated failures.