Got a Word document you want to share but are worried somebody might edit the file? Learn how to save into a graphic format like JPG so that it can't be easily edited.
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When it comes to distributing information over the Internet, the ease with which someone can edit your work is a major problem. I have seen some of my own articles pop up on other sites either in their entirety or in portions. Not only is plagiarism an issue because someone steals your work and claims it as their own, but someone could make you look bad if they change some aspect of the work and still give you credit. This is part of the reason that Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) documents are popular for exchanging information. They preserve the integrity of the formatting as well as the content.
If you have a Microsoft Word document you want to distribute but are worried about someone else making changes or altering the formatting, there are methods of locking down the content to make them more troublesome to change. This guide will show you how to save a Word document as a picture file.
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Use Non-Standard Fonts
While preparing your document, one trick you can use to make things very difficult for graphic editors is to use a non-standard Windows font for all the text in your Word file. This means avoiding the use of fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman and other common ones you will find on most every Windows PC.
This makes it hard for someone to change the text unless they have the exact same fonts on their system. If they try using a substitute, another person would be able to look at it and tell something was off, even if the typeface was very close.
The only downside to this method is that sometimes the fonts do not print the way you would like, and PDF files sometimes do weird things when they don't like the font. You will have to experiment with different fonts, but thankfully, plenty of free sites offer downloadable fonts for you to install.
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Convert Word to PDF
Perhaps the simplest solution for turning a Word document into a less editable format is to save the file as a PDF. This would prevent someone from editing the file unless they had software capable of doing so, and there are very few free programs available for editing PDFs. In this author's opinion, using PDF is superior to converting the Word document to a JPG or GIF because there are freeware graphic editing programs available, such as GIMP.
Saving Word Docs as PDF:
Office 2003 users will need to download a plugin like PrimoPDF to print to PDF.
Office 2007 users - Download and install the free Office plugin from Microsoft that gives you the 'Save as PDF' option.
Office 2010 users already have the capability built in to save as PDF.
Note: If you use non-standard fonts in your document, the conversion process to PDF may result in changing the fonts. Be sure to check your finished document to make sure it still looks the way you want before you upload or distribute it.
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Convert Word to JPG
This process is much more tedious and requires a bit of graphic editing skill depending on how good you are with using image programs, but it can be done using software already included in Windows. You will have to go screen by screen and paste the screenshots into a graphic editing program, and then crop them to make to document seamless.
Saving Word Docs as JPG:
Scroll up to the top of your Word document and take a screenshot using Alt-PrintScreen.
Open Paint (located under Programs - Accessories) or whatever image editing utility you have, and paste the screenshot into the window.
Go back to the Word document and scroll down so that you can see the remainder of the text that was not captured in the first screenshot, and then repeat the process in Step 2 using a new document or adding to the first one if your graphic editor supports it.
Crop the screenshots however much you need, such as removing the borders from the window or do a copy/paste just on the blocks of text and piece it all back together.
When finished, save the file as a JPG.
Got a Scanner?
If your document is only a single page long, one quick and easy way to make it a JPG is by using a scanner. Just print the document to paper, scan it back in and save the scan in a graphic format. You can do the same thing for multiple pages, but then you will still need to use graphic software to put them all back together into one file unless you want a bunch of individual images.
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Final Thoughts on Document Security
Despite your best efforts, there is no guaranteed way to keep others for pilfering your content. The methods described here will help make it tougher for them, but a determined individual with the right technical skill can still capture text using OCR or edit your document with a program like Adobe Photoshop. The bottom line here is that if you are that concerned about keeping your document under tabs, then maybe you should not be distributing it in the first place.