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Save non-savable PDF files System
Occasionally one has to use an annoying PDF that one can't re-save, but can only print. My sister had this situation dealing with some obnoxious state-run Microsoft system that didn't allow the user to save a completed form, only to print it from a browser. The individual administering the system apparently flipped the wrong bit, as last year, the form could be saved.

Here's a workaround, various versions of which can allow you to save the PDF:
  1. Turn off the print queue for the printer by going to Printer Setup Utility.
  2. Print the file, but don't reactivate the printer -- choose the Add to Queue option.
  3. Go into the terminal and su to root. (If you haven't enabled root, use sudo -s to start a root shell.)
  4. Type cd /var/spool/cups, then identify the file you just printed. Do this by matching the queued file's time stamp to the time you printed the file (ls -l; the file of interest should be at the bottom).
  5. Copy (don't move) that file out of the spool folder: cp filename ~/Desktop. I don't know what a move (mv) will do to the print system.
  6. Type cd ~/Desktop to move to your user's Desktop folder.
  7. Type chown myaccount:myaccount filename to make sure the Finder in your user space will play nicely with the file.
  8. Peek inside the file and determine whether it's a postscript or PDF file -- you can drop it on TextEdit to see its contents. If it's a postscript file, rename the file to If it's a PDF file, rename it to filename.pdf.
  9. Confirm the above by dropping the file on Preview. If the file is a postscript file, you can then save it as a PDF file from Preview.
[robg adds: I haven't tested this one. This older hint suggests an alternative method of saving a non-savable PDF from Safari by dragging the page's fav icon to Safari's Downloads window.]
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Save non-savable PDF files | 12 comments | Create New Account
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The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: gbrandt on Jun 16, '09 07:34:37AM

Is it not possible to just print it to PDF, thereby regenerating the original PDF as a saved file?

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: KuroRai on Jun 16, '09 07:36:44AM

I was just about to post the same comment.

I've always found that when I am only allowed to print, the Save as command always works.

In fact, sometimes, when I want to edit the file a bit, and I'm allowed to save but not edit, I'll go ahead and print it as a PDF file to remove the protection.

= )

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: everkleer80 on Jun 16, '09 08:00:50AM

Hmm... I was thinking the same thing, but the older post seems to indicate that the save as PDF option in the print dialog may not be there for password protected PDFs. I don't know if this is true or not but I guess it's good to have options just in case.

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: larkin on Jun 16, '09 08:21:42AM

I have (countless times) gone through the print dialogue box and saved it as a pdf from there. Has worked for me every time so far ....

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: osxpounder on Jun 17, '09 09:48:42AM

If it hasn't happened to you, that's great.

It's happened to me.

Sometimes, that Save to PDF feature in the Print dialog box doesn't work -- maybe because the PDF is set to prevent saving(?). I tried opening one in Acrobat 7 Pro, and in Preview, but neither would save it, nor let me print it to PDF.

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: springworks on Jun 16, '09 08:18:41AM

I came across a similar issue when I bought some sheet music online. The web site only allowed you to print the file, not to save it as a PDF (The PDF > Save as PDF… and Save as Postscript… options were disabled in the Print dialog). But I wanted to have a PDF file as a backup.

I got around it by printing the file to the Adobe PDF printer (I have Acrobat Professional), thus creating a PDF file with no limitations.

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: Dr. T on Jun 16, '09 09:54:50AM

The "print only" type of document protection has always been lame. If you can send it to your printer driver, then you can save it on your computer. I've gotten around that type of document protection since the early 1990s. "Print only" documents are protected from only the technologically challenged.

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: chrischram on Jun 16, '09 11:14:41AM

Wouldn't just installing the CUPS-PDF driver be a lot simpler way to do this? That's always worked for me when the Print to PDF option is grayed out.

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: Anonymous on Jun 16, '09 12:14:36PM
Ah, perhaps the state-run site followed this tutorial?

As it says in plaintext in the files:

%% Removing the following eleven lines is illegal, subject to the Digital Copyright Act of 1998.
So, you'd better not remove them. Now, if only there were some method of simply deactivating them without removing them? Hm.


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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: Cobalt Jacket on Jun 17, '09 08:15:37AM

Here's the thing. I have no interest in re-distributing the password-protected PDFs I have. These are essentially eBook distributions, which I want to use outside of the proprietary reader that they use.

I am speaking of Zinio here. They have their own reader and an encryption layer on top of what is otherwise a standard PDF. I'd prefer to simply be able to read these Zinio PDFs (for which I have a legal subscription) on alternate devices.

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: palahala on Jun 17, '09 09:09:07AM

Note that the hint is about PDF Forms, for which one might want to save a copy AFTER filling in the form. I've never seen non-forms PDFs (so: PDFs that one does not change) that can be printed yet not saved. They surely may exist, but then I'd first try Rob's hint about dragging the favicon. Or, use Option-Command-A to see the Activity window in Safari, or Command-I to see the Page Info window in Firefox.

As for PDF forms: sometimes pre-filled forms (such as order confirmations or even badly coded invoices) do allow for saving, but in fact have a reference to the template which is then still only available online. If that template is not available in the future, then the saved form is useless too. To prevent that, one might want to print to PDF as well...

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Save non-savable PDF files
Authored by: almostHandsome on Jun 27, '09 10:03:13PM

So far as that old hint is concerned. I uninstalled the Adobe plugin. (I avoid plugins as much as possible. They have a lot of security holes, esp. Flash.) When I get a PDF, it always downloads to my computer. (In fact, even with the plugin, it downloads, it just doesn't say where.) I have it set to download to /tmp/[username]. (I use FF.)

BTW, consider yourself lucky. In my crooked state (ironically, the one with the world's top technical university and the HQ of the W3C), very few forms are published on the state web site anyway, because it would cost some state workers their jobs and save the taxpayer $$$.

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