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Help: Passwords and Permissions

There are two types of passwords a PDF document can have:

  • User Password:
    Required to open and view the document. This password encrypts the document so that the contents are only viewable by those with the password.
  • Owner Password (Permissions PDFpenPro only ):
    Required to change document permissions, but not to view the document. The document is visible to all, but saving, printing and/or copying may be restricted by the document owner.

While the user password secures the content of the document from view, the owner password secures what can be done with the content. A document may have both passwords.

Setting a User Password

  1. Choose File > Duplicate (Cmd+Shft+S) then in the new document choose File > Save (Cmd+S). Or use File > Save As (Cmd+Opt+Shft+S).
  2. At the bottom of the Save dialog select an Encryption option. We recommend Strong.
  3. Enter a password in the Password field.
  4. Re-enter the same password in the Verify field.
  5. Click Save.

Whenever a password-protected PDF is opened, the user will be asked to enter the password you specified. You can test this by closing and opening your document.

Encryption Levels

The encryption level of a document determines it’s security and which other PDF applications can view it. There are three levels of encryption to choose from.

  • Weak: 40-bit RC-4 encryption level. Files with this encryption level can be viewed by users of any PDF viewer.
  • Strong: 128-bit AES encryption. Files with this encryption level can be viewed by users of PDFpen 4.2 and later, Adobe Reader 7 and later, and Preview in OS X 10.5 and later.
  • Strongest, least compatible: 256-bit AES encryption. Files with this encryption level can be viewed by users of PDFpen 5.3 and later, Adobe Reader 9 and later, Preview in OS X 10.7 and later.

As of version 6.2.1, PDFpen supports working with files using 256-bit AESr6 encryption created with Adobe Acrobat X and later. PDFpen cannot encrypt new files with this encryption level, but it can open and save files at this level. Users of Preview will not be able to view files at this encryption level.

Setting Document Permissions

(PDFpenPro only)

Set an owner password in a PDF to control the document's permissions. Document permissions settings specify whether certain actions are possible, such as printing or editing. These actions can only be performed by someone with the owner password.

Note: Adobe Reader, Preview, and PDFpen do respect document permissions, but not all PDF editing applications do. Document permissions can be helpful in preventing casual PDF users from editing or other restricted activities, but they should not be relied on as foolproof security.

  1. Open the Inspector window to the Document Permissions tab. (Window > Document Permissions).
  2. Click the Add button.
  3. Enter your desired password in the Password field, and then enter the password again in the Verify field. Click OK to finish.
  4. Select your permissions. The Presets popup has a list of common permissions settings, explained below.
  5. Choose File > Save to apply these settings.

The owner password is now required to set or change these permissions. Test this by closing and opening your document.

Permissions Settings

Note: We recommend using the presets when possible since certain settings are mutually exclusive.

  • Print
    Allow a user to print the PDF.
  • Allow high-res printing (not recommended)
    Allow a user to print to PDF via the Print Dialog. This will flatten the PDF, negating all permissions settings. With this setting Off, that Print Dialog option will not appear.
  • Modify any content
    Includes the options for Modify Pages, Fill forms, and Annotate documents.
  • Modify pages
    Reorder, copy, delete pages.
  • Copy text and objects
    Copy document content outside the document.
  • Fill forms
    Allow a user to fill in form fields.
  • Annotate documents
    Add comments, notes, highlights, markups.
  • Allow accessibility (recommended)
    Allow accessibility utilities, such as VoiceOver, to have access to the text of the document.

The level of encryption is noted at the bottom of the window.

Permissions Encryption

The default encryption of document permissions is AES–128. You can change this by adding a user password, details above. The permissions encryption will take on the same encryption level as the user password.


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