How to lock tables and workbooks in Numbers

Numbers is a great option for spreadsheets and workbooks on iOS and Mac. As an alternative to Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers has some of the same handy features but is lacking in others. So if you’re interested in locking cells in Numbers or locking an entire workbook, both to prevent unwanted changes, we’ll show you your options.

Lock tables in the Numbers app

Locking cells and spreadsheets in Numbers

Locking cells means locking tables

While Excel gives you the option to lock specific cells or a range of cells, Numbers isn’t currently this flexible. However, you can lock tables in Numbers. So if you have a sheet that you want to share and allow other users to only edit certain cells, you’ll need to use different tables. This allows you to lock tables of data that you don’t want others to be able to edit while leaving those that they can edit, unlocked.

Luckily, you can have as many tables as you like in a sheet. As a refresher, here’s how to add a table in Numbers.

Add a table on Mac

1) Go to the spot in your sheet where you want to add a table.

2) Click the Table button in the toolbar.

3) Select the type of table you’d like to insert or drag that style to your sheet.

Numbers Mac Add Table

Add a table on iPhone and iPad

1) Go to the spot in your sheet where you want to add a table.

2) Tap the plus sign button at the top.

3) Select the Table icon and pick the type of table you’d like to insert.

Numbers iPhone Add Table

Again, you can lock tables that you want to make un-editable by other users. This is also a convenient feature to prevent accidental changes that you might make while working on your sheet.

Locking a table

In Numbers on Mac, select the table that you want to lock by clicking on it. Then pick Arrange > Lock from the menu bar.

Numbers Mac Lock Table

In Numbers on iOS, select the table you want to lock and tap the Format button (brush icon). Pick the Arrange tab and tap Lock.

Numbers iPhone Lock Table

When you lock a table, you’ll notice that no matter where you click on that table, it’s as if it’s one object. So you cannot select cells, rows, or columns. And you’ll see X’s on each of the four borders of the locked table.

Unlocking a table

On Mac, to unlock a table when you’re ready to edit it, select it and click Arrange > Unlock from the menu bar.

On iOS, you have a few ways to unlock a table. Select the table and then do one of the following:

  • Tap the Table actions button (from the bottom) and select Unlock Table.
  • Tap the Format button and tap Unlock.
  • Tap the table two times to open the shortcut menu and select Unlock.
Numbers iPhone Unlock Table

Locking a file prevents unwanted changes

You can also lock a workbook, or file, in Numbers on Mac which locks all sheets within it. This is another way to prevent accidental changes.

At the very top of the Numbers window, click the name of the workbook. Then check the box for Locked.

Numbers Mac Lock File

You’ll notice that the name, tags, and location fields are immediately grayed out. And if you attempt to edit anything within any sheet in the workbook, you’ll receive a message letting you know the file is locked.

You can then hit Cancel to disregard your intended changes, Duplicate to make a copy of the sheet which you can then edit, or Unlock to unlock the workbook.

Numbers Mac Locked File

While a file is locked and you cannot make changes to it, you can still select and copy data from a sheet. You’ll only see the above message when you try to edit an element in the workbook.

To unlock a Numbers file, click the name of the workbook at the top and uncheck the Locked box.

On iPhone and iPad, locking a workbook isn’t quite the same. You can protect your file with a password, and do the same on Mac, which is different than the simple “locking” option described above. It’s also a good way to secure your Numbers workbook.

If you’d like to learn how to password protect your Numbers file, head over to our full tutorial for doing this on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Locking tables and workbooks in the Numbers app

Although not ideal, you do have an option to lock data in a Numbers sheet as well as a Numbers workbook in whole on your Mac. Hopefully, Apple will add the ability to lock specific cells down the road making Numbers even more robust.

What are your thoughts on the locking feature available in Numbers? Will you use additional tables and lock the data you need or will you opt for using Excel so you can lock the exact cells within a table you want? Share your thoughts below!

Related helpful tips: