Whether you’re sharing your document or working on it alone, involuntary editing can happen. Fortunately, Google Docs provides you with an easy way to avoid wrongdoing, mistaken deletion, and other unintentional editing with viewing mode only.
Use viewing mode when working alone.
If you are presenting your document to others or just reviewing it yourself, you can easily enter viewing mode. This makes the document unchangeable and the menu thicker.
In the upper right of the Document Toolbar, click the drop-down arrow next to the editing (or pencil icon) and select “View.” You can also go to View> Mode in the menu and select “View”.
You will immediately notice that you have changed the modes with a short “You are watching” message below. You’ll also see a compact menu with only a few options, such as word count or print preview.
This prevents you from making any changes to the document.
When you have finished using this mode, click the Icon drop-down box and select “Editing”. Alternatively, you can go to View> Mode in the menu and select “Edit”.
Use viewing mode when sharing.
When you share Google Docs, you can allow others to make changes. This is ideal if you are collaborating on a document. But if you want someone you’re sharing with, just let them see and don’t make changes, that’s fine too.
When you share a document or later, you can change the sharing permission to view only mode. Also, you can adjust the permissions if you are only sharing the link.
Set sharing as viewing only.
To share your document, click “Share” at the top right. After entering the person you want to share with, click the drop-down box on the right and select “Viewer”.
You can then continue sharing the document as you normally would.
Change sharing to view only.
If you have already shared your document, you can change the viewing permission only after this fact.
Click “Share” at the top. Then, to the right of a person in the list, click the drop-down box, and select “Viewer”.
Click “Save” to apply the change. You will see the message “Pending changes” until you do so.
Restrict access to the link to view only.
If you’ve got a link to share your document with others, you can make everyone who accesses the link an audience instead of an editor.
Click “Share” at the top. Then, click “Change” in the GateLink section of the popup window.
On the right, click the Editor drop-down arrow and select “Viewer”.
Click “Done” to save your changes.
The only way to protect your document from unwanted edits is to view it. Remember the viewing mode in Google Docs, whether for yourself or for others you’re sharing. If you’re new to the app, check out our introductory guide to Google Docs for additional tips.
Related: An early guide to Google Docs.