Can I open one of my docs/spreadsheets/etc in read-only mode?

I would like to view it for reference without having to worry about it being modified.


Well, it seems Google Documents has been updated since I wrote my first answer. There's now a button that allows you to enter read-only mode:

Screenshot of the Google Documents editor

At least this button is available in some Google Accounts. Probably a feature that is being rolled out gradually.

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  • 3
    is there a way to send readers of a document directly to the "Viewing" mode instead of the "Suggesting" mode where they do accidental edit suggestions that cause administrative burden? (having to review/delete them) – George Birbilis Jun 2 '17 at 11:11
  • @GeorgeBirbilis I don't know, but that could make a great question if posted separately. – Vidar S. Ramdal Sep 7 '17 at 20:20
  • 1
    indeed, here it is: webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/109562/… – George Birbilis Sep 8 '17 at 15:58

When you have "edit" rights on the document there are no elegant solutions out of the box to switch to a "read-only" mode temporarily.

After trying out several answers and solutions I have found two solutions that work with the current version (Jun 2018) of google docs (docs, sheets, ...):

Solution #1 (Print Preview mode) Use the /preview endpoint, which is a read-only view.


The only problem with this view is that you cannot use any of the data tools like sorting, filtering etc., which are usually required when you are dealing with sheets/data.

Solution #2 (Create a copy)

    File > Make a copy

This gives you a personal copy in your drive with full permissions but you wouldn't care making edits because it's a copy visible only to you. Once you are done with it you can delete the file and reclaim space from your drive.

    File > Move to trash

File Menu

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It's possible, by creating a shareable link for your document, and opening it in an Incognito/Private window:

  1. Click the Share button while editing the document
    Screenshot of Share button

  2. In the dialog that opens, click Get shareable link
    Screenshot of "Share" dialog

  3. Make sure can view is selected.
    Then copy the generated URL by pressing Ctrl-C, and click Done Screenshot of "Generated link" dialog
  4. Open a private/incognito window in your browser (usually by pressing Ctrl-Shift-N, or see these instructions on Wikihow)
  5. Paste the link into the address bar, and press Enter Screenshot of Incognito window

You now have a read-only version of your document in the private window.

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  • great idea to open in a private window! – Mark Harrison Jun 10 '16 at 4:53

In Google sheets, I found it effective to protect the sheet.

Right click the sheet tab at the bottom of the screen. Click Protect Sheet. Click the Set permissions button.

Choose Show a warning when editing this range.

My users have a sheet they mostly use for reference to lookup student information. On the rare occasion they need to make a change, or accidently edit something, they receive an "Are you sure..." prompt which they must acknowledge.

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Especially when a team uses a Google Docs doc mostly for reference, accidental edits will happen. They'll get tangled in the edit history with intentional edits, making them hard to tease out.

Not exactly what you were asking for: In this situation, it's sensible to switch from Google Docs to Google Sites. Sites is handy for managing a private website of reference-oriented pages. You have to explicitly click to edit a Sites page, so accidental edits don't occur.

That doesn't help with Google Sheets, but Sites might have a "gadget" that can display content from a Sheet. Sites has lots of gadgets and other features for handling semi-structured information like release notes.

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  • I haven't downvoted, but I think your answer would be better if you described a concrete way to publish a Google Doc on Google Sites. As of now, your answer says that "Sites might have a gadget ...". If you actually found such a gadget, and described how it could be used, the answer would be much better. – Vidar S. Ramdal Jul 1 '16 at 10:29
  • Google Sites is currently available for Google Apps for Work users, so I no longer have access to it. (That could change.) Anyway, @VidarS.Ramdal's second answer is ideal: Google Docs now has a "Viewing" mode. (Google Sheets does not, at least not yet.) – Jerry101 Jul 8 '16 at 0:38

It is possible.
Try the below - you need to put the document ID in the middle and remove "< >".

https://docs.google.com/document/d/<document ID>/view

I have tried and it works.

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  • This doesn't appear to work with spreadsheets, although it may with regular docs. – ijoseph Jul 15 at 18:16

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