Easy way of making MS Word 2010 documents read only and not copyable as a PDF.
March 16, 2011 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I work in a school and have made a number of resources of my own for my classes and my department. I would like to upload these to the school's website but I wanted to have them as PDF files where the content was not copyable. I am currently running Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010, and Adobe Reader X. I also have the Serif X3 Applications package installed on my machine. Is what I want achievable with the software I currently have or should I forget the idea?
posted by ndaguiar to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
To make PDF's with Adobe you need to have at least Adobe Standard. Adobe Reader is just a reader. See if your school has any licenses for Adobe Standard.
posted by pwally at 7:11 AM on March 16, 2011

what do you mean by "not copyable"? are you after something that can only be viewed on the web and not saved locally, or a PDF file where the content text can't be copy/pasted out of the document?
posted by russm at 7:12 AM on March 16, 2011

Response by poster: pwally: unfortunately the school does not have any licenses for Adobe Standard.

russm: I'm after a pdf file where the content text can't be copy/pasted out of the document.

Thanks for the interest and comments.
posted by ndaguiar at 7:17 AM on March 16, 2011

If someone wants to copy it, they can very easily use Print Screen to save an image of the document and then run it through an OCR program. Disabling copy and paste of text would only discourage casual copiers.

That said, you could:
a) Create the document in Word or whatever.
b) Use Print Screen to copy an image of the document.
c) Paste the screenshots into a new Word document.
d) Save the new Word doc as PDF (Word 2010 should have the Save As PDF option I think).

This would give you a PDF of images instead of a PDF of copyable text.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:23 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Text from PDF's is typically copyable if converted from Word...Acrobat knows it's text and you can hilight and copy/paste.

If you or someone else have access to either Illustrator or Indesign, you can convert the text to outlines and Acrobat wouldn't read it as text.
posted by radioamy at 7:25 AM on March 16, 2011

pwally is correct. From a full version of Acrobat you would choose a password lock, and then check off what features the file will have (printable, viewable only, copyable, editable, others). radioamy, you can deliberately force Acrobat to not allow copying if you set it up that way. EndOfInvention's idea is good, but the file size will be HUGE.

I have never used them personally, but there are free PDF converters out there that allow you to add password capabilities / lock them down. You might look for one with a free trial. Do a bit of research before you download any free app, however. Some are spammy.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:28 AM on March 16, 2011

I don't know anything about Serif products but from looking at their website it appears to be some kind of graphics suite. I don't know about previous versions but with Page Plus X5 you can save as PDF.
posted by radioamy at 7:30 AM on March 16, 2011

The bottom is that is they can see the content, and are motivated, they can copy it. BTW, if you work in the public school system it is questionable whether you even have the copyright to those documents. There have been some cases of schools objecting on a copyright basis when teachers were running a side business selling thier personally created curriculum resources online. I'm not sure if there has been a definitive ruling on the matter.
posted by COD at 7:31 AM on March 16, 2011

Locking PDFs doesn't work, because there are numerous ways to defeat password protection to copy the contents.

You can print to a PostScript file on Windows for free. Use the open-source GhostScript to convert the PostScript file to PDF:

How to Use GhostScript to Convert a Word Doc to PDF

You don't need to give money to Adobe. Although you could, if you wanted, if you want something convenient or need other PDF features.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2011

COD is right - bottom line is that if someone really wants to have usable text from your document, they can make it work. But certainly there are ways to make it harder for someone to rip off your work.

After reading my first post I realize I probably didn't explain myself that well. Basically what you want to do is make it so that a computer doesn't read the PDF text as text. In many graphics programs, there is an option to convert your text to outlines - basically it turns each letter of text into a graphic. It still looks the same to you but the computer doesn't need to have that font installed to read it. The main reason someone would do this is before sending a document to a printing company to make sure that the document prints the way it is supposed to.
posted by radioamy at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2011

CutePDF is a great, free, PDF writer. I've used it for years. No spam, no ads involved.

That said, I don't think you get the security options you need with the free version.

I think the easiest way to do this would be as EndsOfInvention mentions - print screen to convert your doc to an image, and then save this image as a PDF.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:43 AM on March 16, 2011

Best answer: If you work hard to make some useful digital resource that's allegedly uncopyable, there's a small but real class of people you will actually motivate to spread protection-stripped copies as far and wide as possible. In any case, any file downloadable from your website will be trivially copyable in its entirety.

It takes some pretty serious control over customer relationships and end-user devices (such as Amazon has with its Kindle, or Apple with the iPad) to enforce anything even approximating effective copy protection. If you're making stuff designed to be published via the Web and viewed on ordinary classroom computers, copy protection attempts are absolutely futile and will only serve to make your stuff less useful to your intended users.

You'd be far better advised just to turn it into nice standard PDF files containing ordinary PDF text that renders properly in any PDF reader and causes zero hassle for its users; that way, the version that ends up spread to the ends of the earth will be the one with your own copyright notices inside. Just use Word 2010's inbuilt PDF exporter.
posted by flabdablet at 7:55 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Along the lines of other posters, if a person is determined to get your content then they will do what they need to in order to defeat you. I would love it if the teachers I work with wanted something I wrote so much that they took my graphical PDF and scanned it through OCR ... there is no way to win.

But most people won't do that, so what I do is use the open source PDF Creator; when saving a PDF is gives me options to disallow users from printing the document, copying text and images, modifying the document, or modifying comments (in additional to allowing old fashion password protection). In my years working in ed tech that will defeat most normal users, but you will have to decide on the trade off between absolute control and your effort.

For a person in your situation I would also consider issuing your documents under a Creative Commons License. It would be a good non-technical way to enforce your rights.
posted by cgk at 7:55 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Allowing folks to share really good work that has your name all over it might be a way to expand on your personal brand.
posted by jander03 at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2011

For reasons unrelated to the question, I spend a lot of time at work bypassing the "protection" people put on various documents.

I think jander03 has it. Make it easy, and then the person removing your security won't be annoyed and take your name off it.
posted by Sheppagus at 1:05 PM on March 16, 2011

Not addressing the security at all, but another way to make a pdf: my scanner came with software which will save the scanned image as a pdf file. If you have a scanner, you might look at that.
posted by CathyG at 1:47 PM on March 16, 2011

Web 0.1
posted by flabdablet at 8:30 PM on March 16, 2011

Adobe offers a free trial (with a limit of 5 uses per e-mail address) of it's online PDF creation tool: http://createpdf.adobe.com/. It's been a few years since I've used it, but I remember having similar security needs and being able to restrict my documents at the time.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 10:16 PM on March 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice and support.

I think I will probably go along with flabdablet's suggestions in the end but will have a play around with cgk's open source suggestion first.

Thank you again
posted by ndaguiar at 7:24 AM on March 18, 2011

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