If you’ve ever collaborated with others on Google Docs or Sheets, you’ve probably encountered a few frustrations here and there. You may have loaded up a file only to find that things somehow moved around or got deleted, wasting hours or days of work and ruining spreadsheet formulas.
No one wants to discover their hard work was ruined or even deleted! Luckily, you can protect your hard work by locking an individual cell, a cell range, or even an entire sheet!
In this guide, we’ll show you how to lock cells in Google Sheets in a detailed step-by-step guide. Let’s get right to it!
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Key Points to Remember
- If you want to be able to edit locked cells, ranges, or sheets, you must be the Google Sheets file owner or have the appropriate editing permissions.
- You can still select and copy locked cells or ranges to paste in another location. Note that you still can’t edit these protected ranges without appropriate permissions.
- Locking cells or ranges does not protect them against formatting. You may still format any locked cells in Google Sheets as needed.
- If you have editing permissions, you can still insert or delete columns or rows, even if they contain locked cells or ranges.
- When you lock cells or ranges, the protections are specific to their respective sheets. You’ll need to set up protections for every sheet you need them on.
- You cannot mass unlock non-contiguous ranges — you must unlock these cells individually (which is a pain, we know!)
What Are the Benefits of Locking Cells in Google Sheets?
Why exactly should you protect cells in Google Sheets? Is it absolutely necessary to have locked cells and protected sheets? Are protected ranges truly recommended?
Well, there are many reasons why you should consider protecting cells, ranges, or spreadsheets in Google Sheets. Let’s look at some of them below:
- Some people lock content in Google Sheets to protect cells, ranges, and spreadsheets. This way, no one can accidentally edit or delete anything vital.
- Locking cells can protect important formulas and reference data, ensuring that any calculations and their subsequent results are correct and accurate.
- Google Sheets has convenient protection settings that allow you to control who can edit and delete your locked cells, ranges, and spreadsheets.
- If you have previously set editor permissions in one spreadsheet, you may copy permissions into your new sheet to save yourself time. You can also copy editing permissions from settings within the same sheet. You can do so from the “Set permissions” option within the “Protected sheets and ranges” pane.
In essence, locked cells, protected sheets, and appropriate editing permission settings can help you protect important data by preventing other users from making accidental changes. This prevents accidental alteration or deletion of any sheet or range, protecting your hard work and enabling hassle-free collaboration all around.
Related Reading: How To Hide Columns in Google Sheets
How To Lock Cells in Google Sheets: 2023 Step-by-Step Guide
While some users are familiar with the Google Sheets lock cells function to prevent any edits or deletions, for others who aren’t as familiar with how this spreadsheet app works, you may feel somewhat overwhelmed — at least initially. This may be the case, especially for those who don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to working with spreadsheets in general.
Thankfully, locking cells in Google Sheets isn’t as complicated as it may seem. In fact, you can lock an individual cell, a cell range, or even an entire sheet to protect them from alteration or deletion in just a few simple clicks. Below, we’ve compiled some in-depth guides on protecting sheets, cells, or ranges.
How To Lock a Specific Cell or Range in Google Sheets
You can protect a single specific cell. You can also select a range of cells if you need to prevent several from being edited or deleted. Here’s how to lock a cell in Google Sheets:
- Locate and select the cell or range that you wish to lock. Once the cells are highlighted, right-click.
- On the drop-down menu that pops up, move your cursor over “View more cell actions.”
- Then, click on “Protect range.” A pane will open on the right side of your screen.
- In the “Protected Sheets and Ranges” pane that opened up, click “+ Add a sheet or range.” If you want, you can enter a description for the cell or range you are protecting in the description box.
- Then, ensure you are on the “Ranges” tab on the pane and choose which cell or range you would like to lock.
- You may type the cell (or range) references yourself.
- Alternatively, you may click on the “Select data range” icon on the right side of the text box to select your chosen cells using your cursor.
- Once you have confirmed the cells or ranges you want to protect, click “Set permissions.”
- Select “Only you” if you don’t want to let others have access to the protected sheets or content.
- Alternatively, you can add editors when appropriate.
- When you’re happy with all your changes, click “Done,” and you’re good to go!
How To Protect an Entire Google Sheet Tab
Sometimes, protecting an entire Google Sheet tab instead of cells or ranges may make more sense. After all, if most of the data in a spreadsheet is essential data, it’s much easier to lock the entire sheet instead of locking everything individually.
Here’s how to lock a Google Sheet tab to ensure the data contained within is protected:
- On the bottom of your screen, right-click on the screen tab you wish to protect.
- Click “Protect the sheet.” You may enter a description for the sheet you are protecting if you want.
- Under the “Sheet” tab, select the sheet you would like to protect.
- If you want to exclude specific cells or ranges from being locked, feel free to tick the box that says “Except certain cells” and add the ranges you would like to leave unlocked.
- Once you have selected the cells you want to lock, click “Set permissions.”
- Select “Only you” if you don’t want to let others have access to the protected sheets or content. Alternatively, you can add editors to your sheet.
- Click “Done,” and that’s all you need to do to lock entire sheets in Google Sheets!
Note: Locking an entire spreadsheet like this does not prevent editing access to the other sheet tabs in the file. Anyone with editing access to your Google Sheets file can make changes to other cells as long as they are not in a locked sheet.
How To Lock Cells and Give Editing Permissions to Specific Users
Google allows you to lock cells for everyone but a select group of people to whom you’ve given editor permissions. This convenient feature ensures that only the correct people can alter or delete the content you have protected. Here’s how you can change the editing permissions:
- Lock your cell, range, or sheet as you normally would, following the same steps detailed in the guides above.
- Once you have selected the correct content you want to protect, click on “Set permissions.”
- On the following pop-up window, change the settings according to your needs
- Select “Only you” to allow only yourself to make edits.
- Or allow other editors to access the sheet by selecting “Custom.”
- The custom option will open a pop-up that allows you to alter the editing permissions for the selected protected sheets and ranges.
- Add as many editors as you want by entering their names or e-mail addresses in the text box.
- Once you have set permissions in the pop-up window, multiple team members can collaborate on the file as necessary.
- Once you’ve added all the editors you want to allow permissions to, click “Done” — and that’s it!
- The people you invited (including yourself) will then be able to edit or delete the protected content in your Google Sheets file.
How To Allow Editing but Show a Soft Warning
If you want to protect your content without actually locking it, Google Sheets gives you the option of showing a warning message when someone tries to edit protected sheets or content.
Only those with editing access to the Google Sheet can make any changes after they have clicked “OK” on the warning message that pops up.
This allows users to edit your file but reminds them to be careful when making alterations. Here’s how to protect cells in Google Sheets without fully locking them:
- Following the guides above, lock your cell, range, or sheet as normal.
- Once you have the selected cells you wish to protect, click on “Set permissions.”
- Select “Show a warning when editing this range” in the following pop-up message or dialog box.
- Click “Done,” and any connected editors will receive the warning pop-up window when they change your protected content.
How To Unlock Cells in Google Sheets
You’ve learned how to lock cells in Google Sheets. You’ve even learned how to lock an entire sheet to prevent it from being edited or deleted. But what happens if you want to undo what you’ve done and allow full editing access to this protected content?
Unlocking cells in Google Sheets is relatively simple. Simply follow the steps below:
- On the top Google Sheets menu bar, click on “Data.”
- On the following dropdown menu, click “Protect sheets and ranges.” Once you select the protected sheet, the respective pane will open on the right side of your screen.
- While you’re in the “Protected sheets & ranges” pane, select the cell, range, or sheet you want to unlock.
- Click on the trash can icon to remove the protection from a range or sheet.
- On the following prompt, click “Remove,” and that’s all you need to do to unlock cells, ranges, and sheets in Google Sheets!
Related Reading: How To Freeze a Row in Google Sheets
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Lock a Single Cell in Google Sheets?
Yes! You can lock a cell in Google Sheets by right-clicking on it.
- In the drop-down menu that pops up, move your cursor over “View more actions,” then click “Protect range.”
- Click on “+Add a sheet or range,” then select the cell you want to protect under the “Range” tab.
- Once done, click “Set permissions,” make your adjustments
- Click “Done.”
If you want more detailed instructions, consider reviewing our step-by-step guides above on how to lock cells in Google Sheets.
Why Can’t I Lock Cells in Google Sheets?
If you can’t lock certain cells in Google Sheets, you may not have the appropriate permissions to do so. Contact the sheet owner to request editor access.
Another reason you may be unable to is because you are trying to protect previously locked cells. You may not change previously protected cells unless you have range editing permissions.
If you want additional guidance, Google offers a guide to collaboration in Google Sheets. It’s a fairly comprehensive document providing guidance on collaborating with others on spreadsheets. And now that you know how to lock cells in Google Sheets working on spreadsheets with others will truly be a breeze!
Alternatively, if you want to level up your Google Sheets skills, you can check out this Google Sheets fundamentals course. It covers everything from formulas to formatting to working with data. Happy learning!
Want to add more protections to your Google Sheets? Check out how to easily password-protect Google Sheets files.
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