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Old 03-11-2009, 05:37 PM   #1
RJ Emery
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Default Acrobat Tracking Feature

Is there any way I can configure an Acrobat document to send notification to me whenever it is opened?

As an originator, I am losing control over how far and wide a document I have created is being distributed, and I would like to know on subsequent versions if an e-mail or some other type of notification could be silently sent to me with the identification of the reviewer.

I'm amenable to any kind of built-in tracking feature. I'm using the standard Acrobat version currently, but I'm willing to upgrade to any other version or level if it includes some document tracking provision.

   
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Old 03-12-2009, 04:55 AM   #2
Benwiggy
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This would be an extremely "non-trivial" thing to achieve.
Such a thing is way outside the JavaScript capabilities of a PDF document. In any case, not all Readers run Javascripts in PDFs. Your code would need to run on any PDF Reader, on any OS.
That level of control over another person's computer is akin to trojans/viruses, and therefore the object of much that computer security tries to defend against.
Some people have outgoing firewalls to stop applications 'phoning home', which is often seen as bad manners.

Adobe does produce its own DRM for licencing PDFs to particular users/computers, called "Digital Editions". However, like all DRM, it can and has been cracked.
Ultimately, the nature of computers and data is such that once you have distributed electronic data to another computer over which you have no control, then it is gone from your control.
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Old 03-12-2009, 10:16 AM   #3
terrie
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Quote:
rj: Is there any way I can configure an Acrobat document to send notification to me whenever it is opened?
As Benwiggy has noted, no...

I wonder if putting a password on the pdf might get you some of what you need? People could pass on the password but they'd have to think about it at least before blithely sending the pdf on?

Another option is to make the pdf not copyable--"content copying or extraction" with a value of "no" is shown as an option in Document Properties--so that at least your content could not be (easily) modified...

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Old 03-12-2009, 11:30 AM   #4
RJ Emery
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benwiggy View Post
... That level of control over another person's computer is akin to trojans/viruses, and therefore the object of much that computer security tries to defend against.
The intention here is not to surreptitiously notify me of who has or is reading the document. I would put a notice at the top of Page 1 advising readers that opening the PDF does 'phone home.' I distribute the document to a few select others, and they are free to pass it on, but I wish to know who all is reading it.

Quote:
Some people have outgoing firewalls to stop applications 'phoning home', which is often seen as bad manners.
Good point.

   
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Old 03-13-2009, 02:41 AM   #5
Benwiggy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ Emery View Post
The intention here is not to surreptitiously notify me of who has or is reading the document. I would put a notice at the top of Page 1 advising readers that opening the PDF does 'phone home.' I distribute the document to a few select others, and they are free to pass it on, but I wish to know who all is reading it.
As I said, this is way above the scripting capabilities of PDF, and you still can't force people to run the code in their PDF viewer of choice. Even if you were to create your own application that required authorisation before decrypting embedded PDF data, there's still no guarantee that someone wouldn't then extract the data thereafter and pass that on. (Depending upon whether they thought it worth their time and effort, of course.)

The password protection and security in PDFs, suggested by Terrie, is trivial to break. For a long time, OS X's ColorSync Utility would accidentally strip password protection and security settings from PDFs by simply resaving the PDF document...!
I routinely get sent PDFs with security set, and the first thing I do is to remove it, so that I can print, cut and paste, etc.

Once it's out there, it's out there.

I have PDF files on my website for people to view, and the statistics I get from my ISP shows me how many people have viewed each PDF file and webpage each month. However, searching the web, I've found people hosting their own copies of my PDF files. I've asked them to put link to my site instead, saving them bandwidth and ensuring that their version is up-to-date, if I make changes. But not all of them comply.
Meh. At least it's still got my name on it. If they were passing it off as their own work, or charging for it - or hosting content which I sell, rather than give away, then I'd be peeved at the very least.

Last edited by Benwiggy; 03-13-2009 at 03:02 AM.
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