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I have a PDF for my camera's manual, and Adobe Reader won't let me print it (the print option is grayed out). SumatraPDF also does the same thing (it even says print denied). How does the PDF prevent itself from being printed? It seems that if the program can display it on the screen, then it can also print it. Maybe Adobe Reader respects the PDF not printing, but surely an open source PDF reader wouldn't be so restrictive. So is there something more to this than merely the PDF reader software respecting the PDF's request to not be able to be printed?

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It's a flag in the file. Adobe Reader and SumatraPDF toady to it. I think it's ridiculous to sabotage software this way. It doesn't stop the determined from making a copy, and it's extremely frustrating to millions of people doing ordinary work. – Colonel Panic Apr 16 '15 at 11:16
Google Chrome (version 42) will let you print the document. – Colonel Panic Apr 16 '15 at 11:16
up vote 14 down vote accepted

The print permission is in the pdf file itself and is mostly used by Adobe products. Some products pay it attention, and some others print it anyway.
It is quite easy to remove.

See the article How To Unlock Adobe PDF Files, where it explains how to use Freeware PDF Unlocker to remove this and other passwords.

Warning : Comment by Chris Betti says

As of Oct 7, 2013, the Freeware PDF Unlocker setup installs unwanted software without confirmation, and fails to install the product itself.

Use older versions (if can be found) or search for another product.

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It is not correct that print permissions are "only used by Adobe products". -- It is correc that "some productions pay it attention, and some others don't". – Kurt Pfeifle Mar 1 '11 at 22:01
@pipitas: Corrected : only -> mostly. – harrymc Mar 2 '11 at 6:06
Many things about PDF are entirely "implementation dependent".. Ever came across a super top secret PDF with password protection? Yea, it's just a simple flag that means "password protect this file".. there is no actual encryption and it's trivial to find a PDF reader that doesn't follow this "rule" – Earlz Oct 28 '12 at 4:44
-1. As of Oct 7, 2013, the Freeware PDF Unlocker setup installs unwanted software without confirmation, and fails to install the product itself. – Chris Betti Oct 7 '13 at 13:05
@ChrisBetti: I incorporated your warning into my answer. – harrymc Oct 7 '13 at 13:22

It's part of the settings when you save the PDF. You can also disallow text to be copied. There are software that allow you to bypass the restrictions.

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Nope. As you say, if it can be displayed then it can potentially be printed. It requires the cooperation of the reader in order to enact this.

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Do you know of a PDF reader that would always let me print? – Steven Feb 12 '11 at 8:46
Nope. But if Evince doesn't allow printing regardless then I'm sure you could hack it easily enough to change that. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Feb 12 '11 at 8:47
@Steven you could edit your PDF file at this website:, or use a software that will enable select, copy and printing on restricted PDF documents. You could then print the "unlocked" PDF document on any PDF reader software. – galacticninja Feb 12 '11 at 8:56
Evince has a GConf option to "bypass restrictions". – grawity Feb 12 '11 at 19:00

To liberate the contents of your pdf, use pdftk:

pdftk in.pdf output out.pdf allow AllFeatures
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Try Okular. If you are like most people, you need KDE for Windows.

On Debian-based Linux distros:

$ sudo apt-get install okular

or on RPM-based distros:

$ su -c yum install okular

or you can compile it on other distros.

On the Mac, you will have to install KDE for the Mac. This requires compilation and is probably not worth your time. (Why would you use such a limited OS anyway?)

On other OS's, you may need to compile it, if there isn't a package available.

Okular should be able to get around PDF restrictions by default.

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