I re-branded our organization a couple years ago and created what I thought were very "easy to use" Word templates for things like letterhead, forms, and long documents. As well intentioned as my co-workers may be, they're not very Word savvy and/or think they are creative geniuses and usually end up destroying the very brand and style guide I worked so hard to create. I've tried locking down Word but it's pretty quirky and caused too much of a headache for people to turn Show/Hide on or learn how Word styles work. I've also tried proactively training people on how to use Word the "right" way but its just not working out. In a perfect world I would have all documents come through my office where I could ensure their design before going to the public, but that's just not possible here.

Can anyone suggest the best way to go about protecting our brand and still allowing co-workers to author their own documents? Different software, workflow, anything???

  • How big is the organisation?
    – e100
    Jan 27, 2012 at 18:00
  • We are an urban public school district. 200+ users at the district level. Jan 30, 2012 at 23:52

6 Answers 6


It's a policy issue, not a technology one.

You should have a brand identity style guide document of some sorts that shows the appropriate use of the visual elements and what to do and not to do with them.

Templates can be provided as a courtesy--but it has to be a policy: "All distributed materials must adhere to the Style Guide. All marketing materials should be reviewd by [insert your name or department] prior to sign off for production and distribution."

  • 2
    And the policy has to have teeth. That's a matter for negotiation with the highest level of the bureaucracy that you have access to, but it has to come from the top, or as near to the top as you can get. Jan 26, 2012 at 23:09
  • Thanks DA01! I totally agree and have expressed this to my superiors. We're continually fighting and educating upper management to see how important our roll in the organization is, and even more important, the quality and consistency of our visual identity. Being in public ed, that battle is going to take a while. I guess that's why I'm looking for a technological solution which I can implement much faster than a bureaucratic one. My other issue is that my office is only 2 people and there's no money coming to expand and cover the workload of proofing, thus again for a tech solution. Jan 31, 2012 at 0:01
  • Oh, one more thing. I did implement a style guide with the roll out, however we have an issue with Word proficiency among users. It's not that they don't want to follow my guidelines, its that they don't know how... another reason to lock it down. Jan 31, 2012 at 0:05
  • The problem is that it's not a technology problem, so throwing technology at it won't really make much of a dent in things and, if anything, will only add more wrenches to the cogs of the bureaucracy. As for desktop software proficiency...that's an issue everywhere...and you'll find that is only more of an excuse for the end-user to find alternatives to using your locked down templates. You definitely have your work cut out for you, unfortunately. :/
    – DA01
    Jan 31, 2012 at 5:59

I agree 100% with DA01's comment. Without some sort of mandate coming from above, any technical attempt can be undermined at-will.

However, Word does have a "Protect Document" feature. In Office 2003, it only allowed editing of comments. As of Office 2007, you can create forms and allow just the forms to be edited. It appears to provide fairly decent control, but I'm not sure how it would affect your designs (ie., multiple-page layouts, etc.)

I don't know how well this works in practice. I've used the Protect Workbook/Worksheet in Excel quite regularly (with good results), but I've never tried to deploy a protected Word document. Good luck!

Click on "Protect Document" on the Review ribbon tab to get this dialog:

Protect Document dialog

  • 1
    That's useful to know. I hated the "Ribbon" (anything that gets in my way or slows me down gets short shrift) so much that I stuck with 2003. Turns out all of my tech savvy clients did the same, so it's the technology-challenged folks who have 2007 and 2010. Contrary to Microsoft's off-the-wall UX research, the new versions are much harder for such people to work with, because the UI style is so different from all other applications. Jan 28, 2012 at 19:47
  • @Alan one of the good things about the ribbon is that everything now has a keyboard shortcut. On the old version, some items could only be reached by menu arrow keys or mouse.
    – Farray
    Jan 29, 2012 at 2:45
  • 1
    there's a certain irony to that, don't you think? :) The kbsc improvement surely qualifies for a "least discoverable feature" award... it certainly wasn't mentioned in the hype. It's the one thing that would have sold me on the new UI. Jan 30, 2012 at 19:22
  • Set up your header and/or footer as desired.
  • Insert a Continuous break on the first line of the document.
  • Create the remainder of your document as desired.
  • Protect the document as a form, making sure that the first section (the part before your Continuous break) is the only section that is protected.
  • Save your document.

Authoring for what? Physical delivery or electronic delivery?

Physical delivery -- have a masthead/letterhead printed by a commercial press. Then have employees use those preprinted pieces in the office printers. Supply only a Word framework so they don't overrun the preprinted graphics.

Electronic delivery -- I don't think there's much that can be done. Word is... well... Word.


This probably isn't an option for smaller organizations, but larger companies could employ document preparation systems in their workflows.

The content would be prepared through a set of forms or just a regular word processor. Then it would be handed off to a document preparation system like LaTeX, ConTeXt, Halibut, etc., which would apply the appropriate template to it.

Many ECM solutions provide this sort of functionality. You can even scan existing physical documents, digitizing it and outputting a PDF consistent with your branding.

Also, I haven't tried this, but supposedly InCopy and InDesign can be used to implement managed workflows between designers and copywriters even in small organizations.


In Word 2010, you can restrict the editing of templates to just allow content editing (no format changes) which helps a good deal. Open "Review" in toolbars Select "Restrict Editing" And then configure to your needs.

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