Managing Documents - PDF Issues

PDF Encryption and Password Protection

There are a number of ways that Portable Document Format (PDF) files can be secured, including encryption and password protection. In general, the Common Grant Application allows the upload of PDF files that are simply encrypted, but not those that are password-protected. If a PDF file is password-protected, it may restrict the ability of other CGA users to read and/or print the file, which often will defeat the purpose for which the file was uploaded in the first place (e.g. a supporting document uploaded as part of an application will not be viewable by the grantmaker you are applying to). While there are different levels of PDF password-protection, at present our software is only capable of detecting password-protection and not which capabilities are password-protected within an individual PDF file. As such, we must reject all uploads of PDF files that are password-protected. Please note, the password protection isn't visible in the Windows file properties, you have to open it in a PDF reader like Acrobat Reader to see it.

PDF Permission Options

There are a number of options for password-protecting PDF files to limit the capabilities of someone who doesn't have the password. Examples of actions that can be restricted include: printing, general editing, and content copying or extraction. For more details about these options, please visit PDFLib.com.

Removing Password Protection

If you wish to remove password protection from a PDF file so you can upload it to the Common Grant Application, there are a number of options available to you:

The first is that, if you have Adobe Acrobat (not the free Adobe Reader application), you should be able to remove the password protection and save the file without it. To view and change password protection restrictions, go to Document Properties -> Security, and/or click the padlock icon within Adobe Acrobat when viewing the file. This option may vary depending upon the version of Adobe Acrobat you are using, so please consult your manual or online help for more information about document security and/or password protection.

The second option is applicable if you have the source document that was used to create the PDF (e.g. a Microsoft Word or Excel file). In most cases, you should be able to upload the source file to CGA directly instead of having to upload it as a PDF. If you prefer a PDF or a PDF is required for the upload, simply generate a new PDF file without encryption using the original source file. If you do not have a program that will generate PDFs, there are a number of free tools available – while we do not recommend individual third-party programs, you should be able to find several options by using your favorite internet search engine to search for "free PDF generator".

The final option is to use a free tool to remove the protection from the PDF file. You should be able to find several options by using your favorite internet search engine to search for "remove password from PDF". One such program is http://www.pdfunlock.com.

Failure to Generate PDF Report

Our application reports are created in PDF format. They can consist of documents that have been created and uploaded from a variety of sources. We then will "stitch together" these documents into a a single PDF file. Occasionally the file format deviates to such a degree that the PDF tool we use to create the single report can not read a document. The result is an Adobe error stating "There was a problem reading this document" with a numeric code at the end and only a single blank page is rendered. As flexible as our tools are we can not guarantee 100% support for all programs capable of producing PDF files.

A possible solution is that when creating these files to be uploaded, the user should be instructed to use a program that is known to be supported. One such program is CutePDF™ Writer. It is supported running under Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/2012/8/8.1 (32-bit/64-bit). It's free, simple to install and use, and can be downloaded from the CutePDF™ Writer home page. Instructions in using the program, once installed, can be found here.

Extended Features Not Available

Grantmakers may generate downloadable and fill-in PDF forms to be used by applicants. Occasionally applicants may see the following message when they open the PDF form with their Adobe Reader "This document enabled extended features in Adobe Reader. The document has been changed since it was created and use of extended features is no longer available. Please contact the author for the original version of this document."

This problem is not under our control, and is usually because of a mismatch between the version of the Acrobat Pro used to generate the form and the PDF Reader used to fill out the form. A couple of possible solutions include:

  • If you are an applicant, make sure your version of Adobe Reader is up-to-date and/or download the latest version of the Adobe Reader.
  • If you are a grantmaker, you can try the following on the "master" file and then put the new version on the site for applicants to use: Beginning with the original document, open in Acrobat Pro. Save a copy which disables the usage rights for the PDF Reader. Open the new file in Acrobat Pro. Enable the usage rights for the PDF Reader under the Advanced menu. Save the file. Next, open the new file in PDF Reader X and it should now work.