Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Set That File Free

We handle a lot of PDF files at IssueLab. We save 'em, duplicate 'em, convert ‘em into other formats for various purposes (eg., Scribd), copy text out of 'em, and generally hype ‘em when they contain nonprofit-produced research! So yeah, PDFs are sort of a 24-7 thing in this neck of the ‘net.

So, you can imagine our frustration (and confusion) when we receive PDFs that are "locked". If someone has produced a research report, saved it as a PDF, and put it on the World Wide Web presumably to share it broadly, why then render it all but useless by locking people out of printing it or copying text out of it (to name just two things one can do to a PDF via document security options)?

Before you “secure” your PDF-bound research report against being printed or having text copied out of it, we beseech you to think again. By locking your document you effectively relegate it to on-screen reading only. What if a reader wants to quote something from your report in their own work or presentation? Most readers don't have the time to re-key text that could so easily be copy/pasted from one document to another. What if they want to print something out to read rather than reading it on their computer screen or maybe they want to print it out to share it with someone who doesn't have ready access to a computer? A locked document prevents both these things from happening.

So please, before you “secure” your PDF against being used, and useful, return to the impulse that led you to place your file on the internet in the first place: sharing. Set that file free by making sure your security settings aren't keeping your work from being read or shared.

Image graciously provided under a cc license

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