Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making PDFs secure

I've made PDFs for a number of years now. I'm sure you have too. We send and receive PDF (Portable Document Format) files. Created by Adobe, the format is as much of our everyday language as xeroxing or Photoshopping. It's a great format.

Most of the time the information in the PDF is meant to be read and used by everyone. There are times you only want select persons to view documents. Those documents may include financial information, medical histories, personal tax information, and so on.  Most document creation software allows you to create secure PDFs—that limits viewing, copying and so on.  Recently I did this for an assignment where I saved Illustrator files as secure PDFs. Expanding on that experience, let's look at some examples.

Microsoft Word
In Word there are a number of native security settings you can use for a .doc or .docx file. You can quickly make a PDF (unsecured) from Word. If you have Acrobat Professional you'd open the document, select File>Document Properties, click on the Security tab, and create your desired security setting.

If you're a Mac user without Acrobat, you can use Preview. In Word select File>Print. With the print options dialog expanded, click on the PDF Button. In the drop-down menu, select Save as PDF... You will see this window next. Fill in the data fields similar to the example below. Click the Security Options button.

Fill in the security setting you want and enter a password only known to you. When finished, click OK.

Open the PDF in Acrobat Reader. Your PDF will display the file title and (SECURED) to alert the reader. Check your Document Properties Security settings dialog.

Paul Rand PDF with Document Properties dialog Security settings

Here's the same Paul Rand quote, copied from Word and pasted into a new Pages document. When you're ready to make a PDF, select File>Export. Click the PDF icon at the top of the window and select the output quality you want. Select your desired security options and enter your password (note that Pages SHOWS your password here. I used x's instead). Click Next. Choose the location to save your PDF in the window that follows and click Save.

Your PDF from Pages is ready for checking in Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Professional.

Last, but not least for today, let's look at Photoshop. You may already save Photoshop files as PDFs, but most of us don't utilize the built-in security settings. When you save a Photoshop image as a PDF, you have the same setting selections as Illustrator and InDesign, including security. Make your desired security settings, enter your password, and select Save. Even Snoopy can be sent to Aunt Mabel, secured.

photo © Isaiah Sheppard Jr.
Wishing all the best to you for a great New Year!

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