Free PDFUnlock! web service allows to remove limitations from PDF files [@PDFUnlock]

Reference material plays a very important part in most translation projects. We often receive reference files from our clients, and sometimes we have to find them ourselves through web searches or by browsing the client’s website.

The management and usage of reference files is one aspect that has been introduced in memoQ’s LiveDocs feature, which allows to create searchable corpora of monolingual source and target files. So it’s finally time to put all those reference PDFs to good use! But wait, there’s a catch…

Very often, publishers put locks on PDF files for various reasons, e.g. intellectual property protection, forced consistency by preventing unwanted changes, etc. Here is an example of the possible locks that can be applied to a PDF file (in this case the file is completely unlocked):


Today we needed to unlock a few PDF files in order to use them in LiveDocs. While looking for a possible solution, I came across the PDFUnlock! web service. It’s very simple to use: you upload a locked PDF file and you immediately receive a link to download the unlocked file. Here are some features from the site’s description:

PDF files can be secured with restrictions that prevent you from for example copying text from them or editing, printing, merging or splitting them. PDFUnlock! can remove these restrictions (a.k.a “owner password”).

If a password is required to open the uploaded file, you will be asked to enter it (a.k.a “user password”). PDFUnlock! cannot, however, recover lost or unknown user passwords.

A PDF file can also be subject to non-standard encryption, such as DRM. PDFUnlock! does not remove such.

There is a further limitation: the maximum file size is 5 MB. And, of course, the rule of thumb that applies to all free, unencrypted, unprotected web services: do not send anything confidential for conversion.


Published by Roberto Savelli

English to Italian translator, translation technology enthusiast.

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  1. It’s good tip, thanks for that. However, it is not clear to me what is happening with files on PDFUnlock’s owner side. I would definitely avoid uploading business content that might be considered as confidential by customer, although we consider it as reference “only”.

  2. Also, the maximum file size is actually 50MB. It is the free file size that is limited at 5MB. Unlocked copies of files larger than that can be downloaded after a small payment is made via PayPal.

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