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How to use the PDF features in macOS Monterey’s Preview app

macOS Monterey ups the game for the Preview app in a subtle way: you can better control over PDFs. In Big Sur and earlier releases of macOS, you had to rely on Adobe Acrobat or another PDF-editing program to set controls. Now, Preview in Monterey correctly lets you create an owner/permissions password and pick which…

macOS Monterey improves the Preview app’s functionality: You have better control over PDFs. To set control settings in Big Sur or earlier macOS releases, you needed Adobe Acrobat (or another PDF-editing software).

Preview in Monterey allows you to create an owner/permissions password, pick which elements can be modified and whether the PDF may be printed by anyone who has received it. A separate user/open password can be set to open a PDF. This is an option that was not available before in Preview.

These changes explain why Monterey disabled File>> Export as PDF. Apple is now more aware of the permissions in a PDF. These restrictions were not available before Big Sur. You could choose File > Printer and then Save As PDF. Big Sur’s Apple blocked this , pathway, but allowed File > Export to PDF. Monterey PDFs that are locked against modification or printing cannot be printed or exported to create editable files.

Let us first look at PDF passwords, then content-level permissions.

Set an owner and a password for the user

Monterey changes up the PDF permissions game, starting with the Save dialog.

Previous to Monterey Preview allowed you to set a password by choosing File > Save as for a PDF file, or File > Export As PDF. This password did not control who could open the file. Additional file controls needed to be added in another program.

By enabling PDF-level permission control in Preview, Apple had to also update how you set the password for the file.

When you choose File > Duplicate and then save the file, choose File > Export > PDF, or File > Export as PDF, or hold down Option and choose File > Save As, Preview’s options in the Save dialog no longer include the password fields, replacing them with a Permissions button.

Click the button to set the Require Password To Close Document at the top, and the Owner Password at bottom. The password that opens a document doesn’t permit its possessor to modify the permissions of that PDF; only the owner password is allowed to do that. It is called the “owner password” by Apple and the “permissions password” by Adobe. )

Save the file without clicking Permissions. All permissions are available and you don’t need a password to open the PDF.

Click Permissions. You must create an owner password, and choose from the permissions listed in the next section. An owner password is always required to set a user password, even if you enable all permissions.

Choose permissions

The PDF format allows you to share files with others that retain the exact appearance of the file at the time it was created. You may not want everyone to be able to modify the file. Adobe, the creator of the file, offered several settings. Preview for Monterey supports limiting

  • Printing
  • Copying any of the text or graphics from the PDF
  • Inserting, rotating, or deleting pages
  • Adding annotations or signatures
  • Filling in form fields in the PDF
The Save dialog’s Permissions button brings up the options at left, as does File > Edit Permissions. The Inspect

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