Acrobat: Setting permissions on a PDF document

October 18, 2012

One of my clients asked:

I am saving a PDF file for registered users to download. I’ve set the settings so that people will not be able to edit the information. What other things should I be setting? Author’s details? I have no idea where that is located.

Here’s my response, with some instructions; .

I guess your main purpose in protecting the PDF is to prevent unauthorized copying and modifying, and to indicate authorship.

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat Pro (these settings are the same in Acrobat 9 Pro and Acrobat X Pro, the two versions I tested).
  2. Go to File > Properties.
  3. Description tab: This picks up the title and author from the originating document (e.g. Word), but you can change that information here. Title and Author would be the main ones – personally, I don’t think you need to bother with the rest. That said, under the Additional Metadata button there are some copyright options. These don’t DO anything, expect add information that you provide about copyright. Be aware that ANYTHING published in Australia is automatically subject to copyright law, whether you have a © imprint/details proclaiming copyright or not.
  4. Security tab: Here’s where you can lock down your PDF. But be careful about locking it down too much. You may want to consider locking down Content Copying and Changing the Document.
  5. On the Security tab, go to Security Method and select Password Security. The Password Security — Settings dialog box opens.
  6. Go to the Permissions section of the Password Security – Settings dialog box and consider selecting Restrict editing and printing, then select one of the Printing Allowed options and Changes Allowed options.
  7. Consider turning off the Enable copying of text, images and other content check box, and consider leaving the Enable text access check box turned on.
  8. Add a password in the Change Permissions Password field (in the Permissions section). Make sure you note this password somewhere otherwise you won’t be able to copy the content etc. either. (Of course, you could always re-create the PDF from the original document if you forget the password.)
  9. Click OK to close this dialog box.
  10. Click OK on the warning message.
  11. Enter the document’s password you just set at Step 8 on the password confirmation popup box, then click OK.

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