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While researching the answer to this question, I stumbled across a rather odd behavior in Excel related to unprotected cells in protected worksheets.

To see what I mean, create a new workbook, unprotect its first cell (A1) and protect the worksheet. The only cell that text can be entered into now should be A1. Next go to some other application (for instance your browser) and copy some text from there. Select the first cell by clicking it once (don't double-click or paste into the formular bar) and paste the text into it.

Not only will this potentially change the formatting of the cell, it will also set its protected flag. Thereafter, there is no way to ever change that cell's content again without removing the worksheet's protection (or undoing the paste operation, of course).

Why is that? Is this desired behavior or a bug in Excel 2010 (the version I used to try this)?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is actually expected behavior (well expected by Microsoft, not necessarily by users) which is the good news. And there is a quite simple work around which is the even better news.

When you paste in a piece of formatted text the cell gets given the "Normal" style and then has the required formatting layered on top. The "Normal" style by default has protection set to locked. So this is why it is being applied.

The solution is to modify the "Normal" style. To replicate a solved version of this problem create a new workbook, then:

1) On the Home Ribbon in the Styles section right click on the Normal box and click Modify. Press the Format button and on the protection tab uncheck Locked. (Remember this only applies to this spreadsheet, but that all cells will now be unprotected rather than protected).

2) Select All cells, right click and choose format cells, and under protection check Locked.

3) Select A1 only, right click, choose format cells, and under protection uncheck locked.

4) Protect the worksheet

Now we should be back at the same point as the example in the question in terms of locked and unlocked cells but with a different Normal style.

Now when I paste text in from word or elsewhere the cell does not become protected.

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I don't know why it is happening but as far as i'm concerned, that is a very big bug. :-(

It looks like any time Excel tries to paste in text formatting along with the text it is relocking the cell. If you choose Match Destination Formatting as your paste option; paste from a plain text editor like Notepad; or paste from another workbook in the same instance of Excel then the cell is still unlocked afterwards. If you do a regular paste from any other application that has text formatting, even another instance of Excel, then Excel is locking your unlocked cell.

The formatting issue as least has a work-around where you can copy the correct formatting from another cell and paste it back in the messed up cell.

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Turns out it's not a bug. Have added what I think is a solution, and thought you might be interested. –  Alex Andronov Dec 27 '12 at 10:56

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