Protecting Adobe Presenter Output with Acrobat

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I had an interesting conversation with a potential customer recently. They use Adobe Presenter to create eLearning materials and wanted to be able to easily secure the content so that their students wouldn’t be able to save the content locally… emphasis on “easily”. After discussing the various DRM solutions, I hit on something that ends up being really simple and effective. Just export the Presenter output to PDF and password protect that. Simple right? Not quite. It ends up that they also wanted to be able to update the content at any time and also only allow viewing the file while online. As it ends up, Acrobat and PDF are still a great solution.

The idea is to use the Flash Rich Media Annotation (RMA) with referenced content rather than embedded content which is the default when you export to PDF from Presenter. It’s a great, cheap, simple solution to obfuscating your Presenter assets while making the shell PDF easy to use; no DRM required. This technique works for video files too and works equally as well inside a PDF Portfolio.


Below are the steps to create a PDF file similar to the example file at the end of this post.


  1. Publish your Presentation to "My Computer".
  2. Copy your presentation to your web server.
  3. Use the Acrobat ribbon to create a PDF file of the first page of your presentation. You only need the first page because this will be the "shell" for the Flash RMA that plays the Presenter output.
  4. Open the PDF file and use the Flash tool to insert a SWF – double click or drag out a rectangle.
  5. In the "Insert Flash" dialog, insert the fully qualified URL to the Presenter output that you just uploaded and add "viewer.swf" to the end.
  6. Click "Show Advanced Options" and then select "The page containing the content is opened." from the "Enable When" drop down.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Using the "Select" tool, resize the RMA to fill the entire page (optional).
  9. Save the PDF file.
  10. Secure the file with a permissions password to prevent changes.*
  11. Finally, upload the PDF file to the same server that you are storing the Presenter output.**


* You don’t actually need to secure the file for the functionality to work, however, securing the file will make it harder for users to discover the URL to your Presenter output. By securing the file to prevent changes, users can’t get to the properties dialog box of the RMA.

** The PDF file is actually ready for use after step 9 however, when you open the file or otherwise activate the RMA, Acrobat or Reader will ask for permission to access the URL unless you’ve already added your server as a privileged location. By placing the PDF file on the same server as the Presenter output, Acrobat will use the same-domain policy rule and play the content without a warning.


Now – here’s the best part, when you update the Presenter file, you don’t need to recreate or even redistribute the PDF file, simple overwrite the old presentation with the new material on the server. The PDF file will play whatever is at the URL that the RMA references. This also means that even if the user were to save the PDF file to their desktop, they are only saving the shell, they still need to be online to play the content.


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