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I am trying to disable the end-user from being able to edit and save texts to a word document file in SharePoint 2010 Document Library. Is this done via access/permission settings? As in, give the end-user Read-only permission to the library? Or is there any way to allow the user to update the item metadata; just not allow her to update the document?

Any help would be very appreciated. Thank you.

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Yes and No. If a user can read a document they can download and edit it if they so desire. They just can't edit the document as it exists in your list. This would include the Read and Restricted Read permissions (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc721640(v=office.14).aspx).

You can, through Information Rights Management (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms458245.aspx), prevent them from doing more granular actions. Such as downloading the document or printing it.

As far as splitting the difference. User can't modify the document but can the metadata in the List. My recommendation would be to use a Lookup to a List where you don't care if the user has Contribute. This way they can modify the metadata but can't modify the document using the steps I outlined above. It's a bit more work but, your security will be sound. You could actually setup a workflow so that a default link is created between the library and the list to help alleviate the extra work.

Hope this helps.

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You can force the document to be read-only by clicking check out option. But you cant restrict user from download it and edit by using save as option.

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