How to work around a Save as PDF restriction in macOS Big Sur’s Preview app

A minor changes seems to be perplexing those who are used to exporting pages from a PDF that has some protections on it.

macos big sur preview app

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Users who rely on the Preview app in macOS for viewing PDFs report that a minor change is causing major headaches. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.

mac911 save as security options pdf IDG

The Save as PDF option in Print lets you set granular security on a created document.

PDF files can be protected in various ways, and when using the Print function in macOS and choose the pop-up menu item PDF > Save as PDF, you can click Security Options and set one password for opening the document at all, and another password for either or both restricting the ability to “copy text, images and other content” or to print the document.

If the password option is set for printing, then when you attempt to print, you must enter a password; ditto, copying is locked down.

However, there was an exemption of sorts prior to Big Sur that Apple appears to have closed. Where people have found a problem is with the “copy text, images or other content” setting: they have opened a PDF that can be printed without a password, but Big Sur prevents them from choose Save as PDF—in fact, many options are grayed out in the PDF menu. They want to save a range of pages or certain pages into a different file.

There’s a simple workaround, however:

  1. Open the PDF document.
  2. Choose File > Export as PDF and save the PDF under any name.
  3. Open the saved PDF.
  4. Now you can select File > Print > PDF > Save as PDF.

Failing that, consult the source that created the PDF and ask them to send you just the pages you need or an unprotected PDF, if that’s feasible.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Swami.

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