How to Flatten a PDF and Make It Uneditable in OS X

PDF applications are widely used all around the globe. PDFs are known and favoured because of their ability to preserve document layout and structure across platforms. Some companies and organizations also use PDFs for electronic forms that include editable fields that allow you to fill in data. This can be a very handy feature, but you may not understand what to do if you’ve filled out some info in a form and want to convert it into a PDF that is no longer editable.

Making data uneditable in a PDF form is commonly known as “flattening” a PDF form, a term you may know if you frequently work with Photoshop. Flattening is applied to a file in which you want to merge various elements to present just one final product, an edited image in Photoshop, or in this case, the PDF form which you’ve filled out. To make this clearer: Interactive PDFs (in which you can fill data) simply include another element that allows you to enter your information. Flattening the PDF will disable the element and make all the entered contents static.

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If you use Preview in OS X with your PDF files, you may not find any straight-forward option to flatten your PDF form. If you save the PDF or duplicate it, the entered text will still be editable.

Despite this apparent limitation, OS X does indeed have a feature that will properly flatten a PDF in Preview. You can use the global “Print to PDF” option in OS X to make the entered data static. Follow the steps given below to do exactly that:

1. Open the PDF file in Preview that you want to make static. If you have another app set to open your PDF files, simply right-click the file and select Preview from the Open with menu.

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2. From the File menu, select the “Export to PDF” option.

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3. Save the file wherever you want.

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This simple yet handy feature will now let you easily flatten PDF forms and make the data in them static. You can alternatively also use the “Print to PDF” option on supported Macs.

Do you have any other useful tips to easily flatten PDF forms? Be sure to tell us in the comments below.