Web Applications Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for power users of web applications. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is there an application to make something viewable a la google book previews (no copy/paste, no saving web page as PDF, no printing from browser)? I'd like to make a document viewable to others, but would like to deter any replication/distribution.

I realize that someone could take a screenshot, but would still like most "obvious" methods of replication prevented. Google books is a great example as it's readable, but most other activities are prevented.

Is there any way of sharing something like this?

This is for a work application... so I'm not sure if that limits things further, as I wouldn't upload it to an external service. I have MS Sharepoint available.

I have considered working with a PDF. I supposed with Acrobat Pro it could be non-printable and password protected, which would kind of work, bu then I'd need to control password knowledge.

Any suggestions?

share|improve this question

migrated from superuser.com Aug 27 '11 at 7:37

This question came from our site for computer enthusiasts and power users.

This belongs on Webapps. – digitxp Aug 26 '11 at 20:37
@digitxp: works for me if mods can move. I wasn't even aware of that one and it seems I can't keep up with all the SE variants anymore. – Hendy Aug 26 '11 at 21:24
If you want to remove the copy/paste option, save the document as image (jpeg) and the make a pdf out of that. Then, again, it can be reversed via OCR, but it's a bit more tedious. – Alex Aug 27 '11 at 18:11

Note that this kind of limitation is intrinsically somewhat silly, because if the capability to display a document exists, than the capability to download or print it has to exist. If nothing else, there's always the screen buffer to get it from. There will always be a way around whatever limitations you impose. Moreover, as a security analyst, I would say that if you are trying to impose this limitation then you are doing something fundamentally wrong, most likely in that you are sharing confidential information with people that you evidently do not trust. While the mistrust is often purely due to potential user stupidity, this situation still indicates that you should review on a higher level how you handle sensitive information.

That said, virtually your only choice for this kind of protection is in the DRM features of Adobe Acrobat, which will allow you to restrict document use to viewing (not printing). Acrobat does not provide a good solution for secure distribution because this is beyond its scope. The good solutions in this area are public-key cryptography solutions like the commercial PGP or FOSS OpenGPG (really just a FOSS implementation of the PGP standard, which is largely open). The less good solutions are web-based document management solutions.

share|improve this answer
Yes, I realize this. I'm actually attempting to help an IT admin with this, who was requested to create such a situation for a document for one of the managers she supports. I have made the same point (if you can see it on the screen, you can get at it). We have Sharepoint which can limit access, so I wasn't so sure what was so bad about that and also made the exact same point about, "Well, if he's going to show these folks anyway, doesn't he trust them not to distribute?" Honestly, he should get them in a conference room, pull the shades, use a projector, and never replicate it at all. – Hendy Aug 26 '11 at 21:54
Personally, I would write a CYA email. Explain to the manager and your boss that this type of task is impossible to gaurantee, but that you will do your best. – Keltari Aug 26 '11 at 22:17

Scribd has some great embedding tools and allows you to control what people can do with a document.

share|improve this answer
Great suggestion, though as I noted in the question, I'm not comfortable uploading this anywhere external since it's proprietary work-related content. I'll look into Scribd more for this, though. Thanks! – Hendy Aug 26 '11 at 21:23
If it's so proprietary that standard Internet security won't cut it, I would suggest DRM'ing a PDF file and making people download. – digitxp Aug 26 '11 at 21:24
Is this different than encryption? A colleague pointed out that PDFCreator can encrypt, prevent copy/paste of text, and prevent printing. That's as far as I've gotten with the PDF route. I also tested save as and copying the file -- both preserve the need for a password even to view. Like I said, it just adds the need to control password knowledge, but it might be the best solution available given my limitations – Hendy Aug 26 '11 at 21:38
PDF's DRM is kinda weak, admittedly, but it's enough of a deterrent to people usually. Acrobat's support for DRM'ing PDFs is much better than PDFCreator's is. – digitxp Aug 26 '11 at 21:41
@digtxp: sounds good. I asked the question on behalf of one of our IT admins, and she had Acro Pro (I don't), so I'll pass that on. THanks for the support. – Hendy Aug 26 '11 at 21:43

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.