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Publishing PDF - Security Features with Password Protection Options

By Steve Bain

The applications and features described in this tutorial require CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 or newer to be installed.

The free flow of information thanks to today's technology brings a certain degree of risk for intellectual property, as well as personal and corporate information. Fortunately, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite includes PDF security options to help protect these valuable assets from prying eyes.

Available with both CorelDRAW and Corel PHOTO-PAINT, the Publish to PDF export filters enable you to add multiple layers of security. You can control who views a PDF, and set restrictions on how it can be printed, edited, or compiled into other documents. Let's take a closer look at how it all works.

Adopting a PDF WorkFlow

Publishing your CorelDRAW or PHOTO-PAINT documents to PDF gives you a myriad of flexible options for proofing and printing, online distribution, document archiving, or simply sharing your drawings and designs with others. PDF files store and preserve the fonts, graphics, form elements, and layout of your original document so that it can be easily exchanged and viewed by other users.

How PDF Security Works

To help you control how your PDFs are viewed, edited, and printed, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite offers two levels of case-sensitive password security: Open Passwords and Permission Passwords. Without password security, a PDF may be viewed and imported into any PDF-compatible application.

With an Open Password applied, recipients of the PDF must enter the correct password in the Password dialog box (as shown below) to view, print, or copy content.

With a Permission Password applied, recipients of the PDF can view the PDF without entering a password. However, printing may be disabled or restricted, content selection and copying may be disabled, or the file may have restrictions on whether it may be read by using a screen reader (used by the visually impaired) or by a content cataloging utility, such as an online search engine. Depending on how much protection you want to apply, you can set these restrictions when the PDF is created. When viewing the PDF with Adobe Reader or Acrobat, a security icon in the lower-left corner of the document window (as shown below) will signify the presence of any embedded security options.

Holding your cursor over this icon will display information with details on the applied security settings. Clicking the icon once will open the Document Status dialog box and provide a summary of the security settings (as shown below).

Passwords Hold the Key

Choosing PDF security options from either CorelDRAW or PHOTO-PAINT is relatively simple. Let's take a step-by-step approach to the available options and how they work to secure your document. As you'll discover, there are a few tips and tricks you need to keep in mind to provide the proper level of security for your needs.

  1. To begin creating your PDF, choose File > Publish to PDF from either CorelDRAW or PHOTO-PAINT. This will open the Publish to PDF dialog box. Specify a name and location for your new PDF.

  2. Click the Settings button to view the Publish to PDF Settings dialog box and choose the PDF settings you require. Click the Security tab to view the available options (as shown below).
  1. At this point, you may choose whether to apply an Open Password, a Permission Password, or both. To apply an Open Password, enable the Open Password check box, and type a password in the Password box. Retype the password in the Confirm Open Password box.

  2. To apply a Permission Password, enable the Permission Password check box, and type a password in the Password box. Retype the password in the Confirm Permission Password box.

  3. From the Printing Permissions list box, choose the appropriate setting (as shown below).
  1. From the Editing Permissions list box, choose the appropriate setting. If you wish, enable the Enable copying of text, images, and other contents check box. (We'll define this in more detail shortly).
  1. Click OK to accept your settings, and then click Save to create the PDF. Your secure PDF is now published.

About Open Passwords
Open Passwords and Permission Passwords provide two uniquely different security features. By applying an Open Password, you can control who views your PDF. The Open Password protects your PDF file's contents from being accessed by unauthorized users. When making the PDF available for download online, an Open Password also effectively prevents online search engines or cataloging software utilities from examining its contents. In addition, when attaching the PDF to an e-mail message, the Open Password prevents access by e-mail archiving utilities.

If no Permission Password has been applied to the PDF, whoever unlocks the PDF using the correct Open Password will have unrestricted access to view, print, edit, or copy its contents. It may also be worth noting that if no Permission Password is applied, other users can open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat and change the Open Password security setting.

Choosing Permission Password Options

The Permission Password options constitute the highest security and protection features. While the Open Password controls access to the PDF, a Permission Password lets you control PDF printing, editing, and copying of content.

It's also worth keeping in mind that certain options are available only while the Compatibility option in the General tab of the Publish to PDF Settings dialog box is set to Acrobat 5.0 or higher (as shown below).

Setting Print Permissions

While the Permission Password option is selected, the Printing Permission menu enables you to control how your PDF is printed in the following ways:

  • None — Choosing None (the default) prevents any printing of the document.

  • Low Resolution — This option is available when the Compatibility option is set to Acrobat 5.0 or higher and restricts printing to a maximum of 150 dpi. During printing, each page of the PDF is converted to a bitmap file, essentially freezing the display quality of the text, graphic, or photo content. Since reproduction quality is largely dependent on resolution, this eliminates much of the detail required for high quality printing. Also, since bitmaps tend to produce larger file sizes, the Low Resolution option also offers added security by discouraging online distribution.

  • High Resolution — Choose this option to allow printing up to the maximum available for the print device being used.

Choosing Editing Permissions

Editing the PDF may only be done in an editing-capable application, such as Adobe Acrobat. Editing restrictions include options that enable you to control how the PDF file can be changed or altered in the following ways:

  • None — Choosing this option (the default) prevents the PDF content from being changed in any way through adding or deleting content, compiling the PDF with other documents, or adding PDF comments.

  • Insert, Delete, and Rotate Pages — This option is available when the Compatibility option is set to Acrobat 5.0 or higher and allows the document to be assembled with other PDFs. For example, you can add pages from other PDFs, delete pages, or rotate pages. All other PDF editing changes are disallowed.

  • Any Except Extract Pages — Choosing this menu option allows any editing changes to be performed on the PDF, but prevents content from being extracted.

  • Enable Copying of Text, Images, or Other Content — Enable this option to allow the graphic or text content in your PDF to be selected and copied. Choosing this option also enables PDF content to be cataloged by a text cataloging utility and allows use of screen readers for visually impaired users.

While the Permissions options enable you to restrict the printing and editing of your PDF in various ways, other users can still alter the permissions and security features of your PDF by using Adobe Acrobat provided they have the correct Permission Password.

Tips and Tricks for Working with Protected PDFs

There are certainly some tips and tricks to keep in mind when working with PDFs that include password security features - especially if you happen to be the one choosing the security options. Here are a few that may save you some discovery time:

Make Your Password Tough to Crack

PDF security supports extended character sets for passwords. This means that passwords are case sensitive, giving an extra dimension to security. The character sequence must be between 1 and 32 characters in length. Combining upper and lower case, numerals, and special characters (such as dash, ampersand, asterisk, spacebar, and symbols) will make your password more difficult to crack.

Opening Secure PDFs for Editing

You can open or import a PDF into any compatible editing application such as CorelDRAW or PHOTO-PAINT regardless of which application was used to create the file. As the file opens, the Import PDF dialog box appears and provides text import options (as shown below) that let you specify how you would like the text characters handled.

If an Open Password is used you will need to enter this to unlock the file before you can access its contents. In this case the dialog box will include a Password box (as shown below) for you to unlock the file. If the PDF includes Open and Permission Passwords, the Permission Password will act as the master key to unlock the file.

Activate AND Enter Your Password Options

When creating a secure PDF, remember you must actually enter a string of characters in either the Open Password or Permission Password options (or both), meaning you can't simply leave it blank. If you enable a password check box without typing a password, the security feature will not be activated for your PDF.

Maximize Your Protection

Using an Open Password does not prevent the PDF security options from being changed by someone using a security-editing application, such as Adobe Acrobat. To guard the security method you've used for your PDF from being changed, consider using both the Open Password and the Permission Password options for the maximum password security. The actual password character terms must be unique for each Open Password or Permission Password.

Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and an author of nearly a dozen books, including CorelDRAW®: The Official Guide.