3 Replies Latest reply on Nov 13, 2013 4:11 PM by Steven.Madwin

    Restrict printing of a form with digital signatures


      I hope this isn't a duplicate question...  Please forgive me if it is; I did search the forums first.


      I have a form that requires a digital signature from several people as it gets emailed from one person to the next.  Unfortunately, some of the people can't grasp the concept of digitally signing the form, therefore they print the form, sign it with a pen, scan it, and email it. (Very frustrating...)


      Is there a way to prevent them from printing the form while still allowing me to print it once I receive it. I'm the last person in the signing chain and need the ability to print a hard copy listing all the digital signatures.


      Thank  you so much for the advice! I really appreciate it!



        • 1. Re: Restrict printing of a form with digital signatures
          Dave Merchant MVP & Adobe Community Professional

          Difficult, as the security permissions on a file exist lower in the chain than the digital certificate hash. By changing the permissions when the file is sent back so you can remove the 'no printing' option, you'd invalidate all the signatures too.


          I'm not saying it will work, but this might be a case where using non-Adobe software could help. Often third-party apps will ignore the restrictions flag and allow you to print the file anyway, but they may not show the form data properly.

          • 2. Re: Restrict printing of a form with digital signatures
            Heathman Level 1

            Thank you Dave!  I will look around for a third-party app and see if anything turns up.  Appreciate the response!



            • 3. Re: Restrict printing of a form with digital signatures
              Steven.Madwin Adobe Employee

              Hi Heath,


              Yes it can be done, and it's not that hard to do, but I am going to get a bit techno-geeky here. In the Acrobat world you can sign an encrypted form, but you cannot encrypt (or change the encryption of) a signed form. You can solve the problem by encrypting the form (most likely you'd use password security because it's the simplest).


              First a word about PDF file encryption. Using file encryption gives you two things, control over who can open the file and the ability to restrict what they can do with the file once they get it opened (such as print). You are going to want to encrypt the form before anyone signs allowing all but printing to occur. Then when the users open the form they can fill out form fields and sign the file (at it's heart digitally signing a PDF file is just a special type of form fill-in), but they will not be able to print the file.


              Here's is where things get a bit geeky. The key is when you encrypt the file (assuming you are using Password Security) you need to apply both a Document Open Password and a Permissions Password. Would it be simpler if there was no Document Open Password, yes it would, but then you wouldn't be able to print the form either. By using a Document Open Password when anyone (including yourself at the end of the signing work-flow) tries to open the file they will see this dialog:

              Doc Open.png

              You will supply all of the end-users that you want to sign the file the Document Open Password. Once the file is opened the Print functionality will be disabled so all they will be able to do is fill it out and send it back via e-mail (or a Submit button is you added one to the file). Eventually the file will get back to you, but when you open the file (and get the dialog above) you'll type in the Permissions Password. That tells Acrobat that you are the "document owner" and it raises the permission set to "allow all", and thus you will be able to print out the file. As long as you only share the Document Open Password and keep the Permissions Password to yourself no one else will be able to print but you.


              Could this work with Certificate Security or Rights Management Security, yes it could, The steps would be different, but the outcome the same. Since I'm guessing that you'll use Password Security here's what you'll want to do:

              • Open the unsigned file
              • Select the File > Properties menu item
              • Select the Security tab on the Document Properties dialog
              • Select Password Security from the Security Method drop-down list
              • Select the Compatibility and Encryption options at the bottom of the dialog (I suggesting that you do this first because if you change them you may need to reenter the passwords again)
              • Select the Require a password to open the document checkbox
              • Enter the Document Open Password
              • Select the Restrict editing and printing of the document checkbox
              • In Printing Allowed drop-down leave it set to None
              • In Changes Allowed drop-down select Filling in form fields and sign existing signature fields
              • Select the Copy checkbox at your discretion
              • Enter the Change Permissions Password (it must be different then the Document Open Password)
              • Click the OK button
              • Confirm both Passwords
              • Click the OK button on the Document Properties dialog
              • Save the file to apply security


              Now, when you reopen the file, if you use the Document Open Password printing will be disabled, but if you use the Permissions Password printing will be enabled.


              You can also simplify this if you use the Tools > Protection panel, but I don't want to dump too much on you at once.


              Good luck,