I have a (legally obtained) PDF that has DRM protection on it.

This particular PDF cannot be opened in Preview.app so I'm stuck opening it in Adobe Reader.app. This is particularly annoying because Preview is much better than Adobe Reader and I'd love to use Preview.

I can unlock the PDF in Adobe Reader, but it's not allowing me to save a copy without including the password protection. I've also tried unlocking and then printing the document to PDF but Adobe is smart enough to stop that too.

I'd like to install a postscript printer in OSX and choose that as my printer option when Adobe asks me to select a printer. Is this possible somehow?

  • Are you trying to bypass DRM? What don't you like about Adobe Reader? Sep 8, 2011 at 21:09
  • 3
    @Tom Wijsman, Adobe Reader is terrible on OSX. Preview is a lot cleaner and more responsive. Plus, it comes with OSX. I don't need some bloated 500 MB Adobe app on my computer when I have a perfectly good Apple one that's already there.
    – macek
    Sep 8, 2011 at 21:11
  • I have to agree that having to use Adobe Reader on OS X is a major inconvenience. In the terms of fair use of such material, I guess it's fine to bypass the DRM (but I'm not in the U.S., where it's a different thing). macek, have you tried another reader like Skim.app?
    – slhck
    Sep 8, 2011 at 21:14
  • @Tom: meta question before the 'close' link is clicked.
    – user1686
    Sep 8, 2011 at 21:16
  • 4
    @Tom Wijsman, correction 296.8 MB of disk space for the app. 110 MB of memory to load the PDF. Compare that to Preview's 34.9 MB of disk space and 50 MB to load the PDF. Adobe is bloatware; always has been, always will be.
    – macek
    Sep 8, 2011 at 21:35

6 Answers 6


This is a bit of a hack, but it might work. It's only about creating a useful pdf and includes using LaTeX, so if you're not using that already it's going to a slight to moderate hassle. Basically we're taking a snapshot of your DRM pdf, then using this to create another pdf. Steps:

  1. Download and install MacTeX. You may have done this already.
  2. Create a document and be sure to include \usepackage{pdfpages} in your document header (pdfpages explained).
  3. \include{your_DRM_protected_file.pdf} and compile document to pdf.
  4. See if it works!

For completion - if you are not accustomed to LaTeX- here's a document header+ender that works on my system (OS X 10.7.3, recent version of MacTeX):

\usepackage{babel}              % Language
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}        % Fonts / letters
\usepackage[applemac]{inputenc} % Apple keyboard
\usepackage{pdfpages}           % Allows inclusion of pdf's

% You only need to change this line on OS X
\includepdf[offset = 0 0, pages = {1-2}]{your_drm_pdf.pdf} 


A slight elaboration is in order. After completing step 1) above, steps 2) - 3) requires the following:

  1. Copy/paste the above text into an empty LaTeX file
  2. Save that file in the same folder as your DRM pdf
  3. Edit the line beginning with \includepdf...
    1. File name
    2. Edit the number of pages from your pdf you want to use; works logically
    3. Maybe change offset; it has been set to zero by default but is known to be needed in odd cases. Changing the first value to negative integer values will move your pdf to the left in the resulting pdf, positive values move to the right. Second value has equivalent action in the down/up-direction

Note that the program you need to use is called TeXShop - it will be in your Applications folder after installing MacTeX.



  • Unfortunately this doesn't work. It (partially) renders the first page of the PDF but only shows the password protection. I'm afraid there's really no way to crack this one... :S
    – macek
    May 17, 2012 at 15:51

Printopia ($20) seems to be the most reliable for me so far.

It's a simple virtual printer that fools Adobe Acrobat into thinking it's printing to a physical device.

It's geared toward Air Printing for iOS devices but it works for OSX too. It allows you to print to a local folder on your hard drive, dropbox, or real printers etc.


Unfortunately you didn't specify what kind of protections were applied to the PDF. There are even "DRM" systems that require an Addon to Adobe Reader and an active Internet connection.

However, If we are talking about regular PDF restrictions, you could try qpdf:

qpdf --decrypt in.pdf out.pdf

If you have homebrew installed, you can get qpdf from there. Probably other repositories such as MacPorts and Fink also have it.


When I choose the Print option in Adobe Reader (command-P), one of the printer options shown is 'Postscript' (at least on an unprotected document).

If that is not available as an option, or if printing is disallowed, you may be stuck until you break the DRM, and doing that is probably not legal if you're in the USA (DMCA and all that).


Years ago I have used Ghostscript and GhostView to circumvent DRM, as these products used to simply ignore the DRM and let me freely access the PDF. I don't know if this is still the case today.

I am not on a Mac, so it is up to you to find out the best way to install these products. Here are some links that might possibly be of some help (or might not) :

How to Install Ghostscript on a Mac
About Ghostscript and Ghostview
CADP Installation on Mac OS X

  • Note: Maybe you can print the document to a virtual printer as postscript.
    – harrymc
    May 15, 2012 at 6:32
  • thanks for the ghostscript recommendation. A solution wasn't very clear with these tools so I ended up abandoning it. Your suggestion for a virtual printer was a great idea :)
    – macek
    May 17, 2012 at 17:52

I'd try XPdf.

I know it can be compiled to ignore drm, and there is a pdftops tool.

  • Looking for a bit more of a comprehensive guide than this.
    – macek
    May 17, 2012 at 15:52

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