Many of the new features introduced in Microsoft Office 2010 revolved around greater security. The most prominent security feature is the new Protected View. You may have noticed this when opening a Word document that you downloaded from the Internet or received as an attachment in Microsoft Outlook. With Protected View on, you cannot edit the file unless you disable Protected Mode. This can be a nuisance for day-to-day users, but it plays an important role in protecting your computer from viruses and other malicious software. The Protected View prevents viruses that are embedded in documents from untrusted sources from infecting your computer. These are typically viruses that have file signatures that are not yet recognized by your anti-virus programs. These are called “zero day” viruses.
For security purposes, it’s best to simply endure the inconvenience of Protected View. This isn’t even much of a hassle, if the majority of the files that you open in Microsoft Word 2010 are for read-only purposes anyway. But if you frequently download, edit and collaborate on Word documents from the Internet or Outlook, Protected View can be somewhat of a pain.
You can dial back the aggressiveness of Protected View in a few ways.
The best and easiest way to change the Protected View settings is to launch Microsoft Office 2010 and click File > Options. Click Trust Center and then choose Trust Center Settings. Now, on the left, look for Protected View. Click it.
Here, you’ll see two sections. The first has three options:
Enable Protected View for files originating from the Internet
This option enables Protected View from any file that you download from a web browser, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer. This includes attachments that you downloaded from Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail.
Enable Protected View for files located in potentially unsafe locations.
“Potentially unsafe locations” includes areas such as the temporary folder, the browser caches and other places where illicit files may sneak in. This prevents viruses from slipping into your system via documents that you weren’t aware that you had downloaded (i.e. they could’ve been hidden within a webpage).
Enable Protected View for Outlook attachments.
This is self-explanatory.
Of the three options above, you can most safely disable the last and the first. This narrows down the files to those you presumably downloaded deliberately. It’s not recommended that you disable Protected View for files in potentially unsafe locations, since you won’t be opening and editing Word documents from your temporary folder on a regular basis anyway.
There’s one more option here:
Enable Data Execution Prevention Mode
This stops Word documents from executing data from certain areas where programs aren’t usually executed. This helps prevent attacks that are launched via a buffer overflow, a common exploit. There’s no reason to disable this.
There’s one other area in the Trust Center settings that’s of interest. On the left, click the tab called “Trusted Locations.” Here, you can add folders where trusted files are stored. Files stored here will not open in Protected View. This is a good way to be a bit more choosy about which files are opened in read/write mode, if you haven’t disabled Protected View above.
Overall, if you’re not sure what you are doing or why, then it’s best to leave Protected View with its default settings. But if you are fairly web-savvy and know how to recognize a virus before it’s too late, go ahead and disable Protected View and save yourself some clicks the next time you download a Word doc.