How to password-protect a Numbers document on your iPhone or iPad

Updated October 15th, 2020.

You can password-protect a Numbers document on your iPhone or iPad. No one can open it without the password. This way, if your iPhone or iPhone is unlocked, your document is still protected. It’s really easy to do.

Note: these instructions are for Numbers 10.2, available for free at the App Store.

A Numbers spreadsheet on an iPhone

Notice the black “Edit” button at the upper right. This is something relatively new: there is a “Reading” mode and an “Edit” mode. (Apple added this because people kept accidentally changing things on their spreadsheets as they scrolled around.)

You need to be in Edit mode in order to set a password. After tapping the Edit button you’ll see a circle with three dots in it, near the top of the screen.

Circle with three dots in it– the “more” button

When you tap the circle with the three dots, you’ll get to a place where you can set a password.

More… settings (including Set Password)

You might be thinking “Wait a minute, I saw a circle with three dots in it before I tapped Edit, just left of the Edit button! Why do I have to tap Edit?”

The reason is, you don’t get the “Set Password” option when you’re in Reading mode. See below:

The “More” screen, coming from Reading mode

When you’re in Edit mode (by tapping the Edit button), you get the options you need.

The “More” screen, coming from Edit mode

Then tap where it says “Set Password.”

Give your document a password, enter it a second time, and enter a hint. There’s no back-door into a password-protected Numbers document so the hint is essential should you forget the password (the hint should be enough to remind you of what the password is).

You also might want to turn on “Open with Face ID.” I recommend that– it’s very handy. Same for Touch ID, if you happen to have an iPhone with a Home button.

Setting a password for a Numbers spreadsheet on an iPhone

Numbers is really smart about the Face ID/Touch ID thing. Even if you have one device with Face ID, and another with Touch ID, all you’ll have to do is enter the password once on each device and from then on your face or your touch will unlock the document.

Numbers documents show locked icons when they are password-protected. See below.

Password-protected Numbers document on an iPhone

When you try to open a password-protected Numbers document on your iPhone or iPad it will first try to use your Face ID or Touch ID. After two tries and two failures, you’ll be asked to enter the password manually.

Face Not Recognized, enter the password instead

You will notice that there’s no keyboard showing in the screenshot! That makes entering the password very difficult. This appears to be a bug. You can make the keyboard show up by tapping a few times in the password box.

If you try the password three times, you’ll see the hint. You won’t see it before that.

Password hint showing after three failed attempts.

And that’s all there is to it.

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