As business professionals continue to embrace the efficiencies provided by sharing documents electronically, concerns over content control begin to emerge.

Generally speaking, most professionals want the ability to share information with customers and clients electronically, but they also have reservations regarding what others may do with such computerized forms and files.

Fortunately, Adobe's Acrobat PDF format (the standard-bearer of electronic documents) provides a great variety of control mechanisms that allow the author of a PDF document to precisely manage what others may and may not do with such files.

For those who have paid for the Acrobat program (as opposed to the free Acrobat Reader) security settings can be imposed on any document by accessing the File menu, and then choosing Document Security from the resulting drop down list.

Alternatively, you may also use a keyboard short-cut by pressing the CTRL+ALT+S keys simultaneously.

There are a number of security settings available, but it's important to note that the specific options differ based on the level of encryption that you apply. Within the real estate practitioner's daily business there are not too many security issues, and the standard default of 40-bit is both reasonable and appropriate.

While a review of Acrobat's Help file or manual will explain all of the available options, three simple configurations will satisfy the most common issues that concern business professionals.

Scenario 1 - You want to share marketing materials with prospects electronically, but do not want your competitors to be able to quickly and easily lift materials from your electronic PDF documents.

Solution: Access the Standard Security dialog box and select: "No Content Copying or Extraction...." This will allow others to both view and print marketing materials, but they will not be able to simply "copy and paste" your well thought out marketing dialog from your PDF document into their own.

Scenario 2 - You would like to provide forms and contracts with prospective clients via email (so that they may review them prior to execution) but are concerned about the possibility that they might take these forms and use them to do business elsewhere.

Solution: Access the Standard Security dialog box and select: "No Content Copying..." as well as "No Printing." This combination will prevent the client from copying your content and also from printing the forms for use in outside transactions.

Scenario 3 - You have prepared a contract for execution and wish to deliver it electronically, but need to assure that none of the terms are modified by the client without your knowledge.

Solution: Access the Standard Security dialog box and select: "No Changing the Document." This will allow the customer or client to print and then sign the contract, but will prevent them from modifying any of the terms that you have prepared.

Beyond these basic examples, Acrobat's security settings can be mixed and matched (along with others) in a variety of ways that will allow you to achieve control over the PDFs you create for just about any business need.

In addition, you can also set "password-based" permission for opening and/or editing your PDF documents so that only certain individuals can view them, while you can grant others the ability to make modification.

With a wide-variety of options, Acrobat PDF documents can be individually configured to satisfy just about any business needs that arise from either the nature of the specific document, or from the needs of the other parties who will view them.

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Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale