I saw your note about how to encrypt or password protect PDF documents like tax forms on a Mac, but isn’t there some way to do the same on a PC without paying for Adobe Acrobat Reader Pro?
It’s really hard to compare the two platforms in this instance because on the Mac it’s ridiculously easy to work with PDF documents including saving them in encrypted or password-protected format. On the PC side for reasons I cannot explain, you actually don’t have that feature built-in. There are some workarounds like LibreOffice has some ability to work with passwords but really you’re on your own unless you pay $120 annually for an Adobe Acrobat Reader Pro license. This seems like a pretty high fee to pay for something as simple as adding a password to a single PDF document.
Worse, if you open up the Microsoft Store and look for PDF tools, they aren’t much cheaper and you never really know if they might be saving a copy of every document you protect. Fortunately there are some really great open source options if you’re willing to step away from the Microsoft app store and try something different. Let’s have a look at one of these, PDF Encrypt.
PASSWORD PROTECT PDF DOCUMENTS ON A WINDOWS PC
One of the great things about the open source community is that it’s standard for developers to make the source code available, not just offer up an executable that could be doing who knows what on your PC. PDF Encrypt is no different, and from the home page you can download the actual source code to the program if you want to read a few thousand lines of C# for .NET, or just grab an executable ready to run. I’ll choose the latter. But let’s see what’s going on if I just rely on the built-in tools in Windows.
Right click on a PDF file and your options to open it are probably similar to mine:
I can open up the PDF file in Acrobat Reader DC even if I haven’t licensed the program because the free version lets you read and do basic tasks with a PDF like fill in fields on a form…
Notice the “Free 7-Day Trial” button on the lower right, however. No surprise, if you choose “Password Protect” from the “File” menu it doesn’t prompt for the document password, it shows this instead:
So are you stuck and doomed to pay the fee and get Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for your Windows PC? Nope. You aren’t. Enter PDF Encrypt…
PASSWORD PROTECT PDF FILES WITH PDF ENCRYPT
Jump over to PDFEncrypt.net and you will see the option to download the executable or the source code. You will need .NET but you probably already have it on your PC so it’s not a worry. Run the installer and you’ll see this:
More interesting, go to the next step and you’ll see that it’s all the typical open source licensing terms:
Unlike the apps you can find in the Microsoft Store this really is free as in, well, free. No license to buy when your document is more than a single page, no hidden toolbars installed, no ads popping up.
Once installed – and you might see some errors related to .NET, but ignore ’em and keep going – fire up PDFEncrypt:
Click on the “•••” button and you can choose your PDF document from a standard Windows open dialog. It’ll automatically add ‘-encrypted’ to the filename as the destination output file, though you can change it. Enter your own password or use “Generate” to produce a pretty complicated password:
That’s one heck of a password, probably overkill for this task. I’ll use “taxes” instead by simply replacing it with my own password. Is mine better? No. But for this task, it’ll work fine.
A click on “Encrypt” and the new encrypted PDF document appears on the PC desktop! A double click to open it and now Adobe Acrobat Reader DC has a very different response:
Excellent! That’s it. Done.
Wondering if this will work across operating system platforms? It does, as you can see when I try to preview this encrypted PDF document on my Mac system:
So that’s your solution. Another win for the open source community. Big thanks to open source developer Ryan Griggs, for writing this and making it available!
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