Password protect a presentation
First, how NOT to protect a presentation
Whatever anyone may tell you, saving your presentation as a PowerPoint Show (PPS, PPSX) file offers almost no protection at all.
Don't believe us? Start PowerPoint, choose File, Open and browse to your "protected" show file and click Open. How secure was that? ;-)
Similarly, marking a presentation as Final in PowerPoint 2007 and later isn't protection of any sort. It simply reminds the recipient of the file that you think nobody should edit it further. It doesn't prevent anyone from editing it.
Next, what do you want to share? What do you want to protect?
First, consider what you're trying to protect and why.
Do you need to protect critical information contained in the presentation? You may be able to prevent me from copying the presentation or the file that contains it, but if I can see the information, I can copy it one way or another.
If that's not acceptable, you'd probably better not distribute the presentation at all.
Do you need to protect the presentation itself? That is,the way you've presented the information rather than the information itself? For example, you might want to keep someone else from copying the presentation and passing it off as their own. Or from altering the information in a way that might embarass you.
In that case, one of the solutions suggested below may meet your needs. But keep in mind that there are ways to crack nearly any kind of copy protection. Don't trust state secrets to PowerPoint.
PowerPoint 2003 and later offer a feature called "Information Rights Management" that allows you to exercise considerable control over who has access to your PowerPoint presentations and what they can do with them. It's only practical for large corporate/institutional users, as it requires special server software. To learn more, start PowerPoint and search Help for "information rights management".
PowerPoint 2002 (XP) and later versions can password protect your presentations. This allows you some control over who can open and/or edit/print them. You can password protect your presentations so that only people who have the password can open them. Or so that only people with the password can modifty them.
PowerPoint 2000 and earlier don't support password protection. Mac PowerPoint doesn't support password protection either. You can't create password-protected presentations with them and you can't open password-protected presentations from later versions. Instead, you see a message saying that the PowerPoint file is corrupted and can't be opened.
If your audience is willing to install the free PowerPoint viewer, they can open and view (but not edit) password-protected presentations.
Other protection alternatives
Here are a few alternatives that may work for you depending on the level of protection you need:
Create a standalone EXE version of your presentation with optional password protection
Distribute a show file instead of a presentation file
Open your presentation and save it as a PowerPoint Show (PPS or PPSX, depending on version) file.
This doesn't really secure the presentation, as mentioned above, but when naive users doubleclick it, it starts PowerPoint directly in Slide Show mode. They won't have the opportunity to edit the file. Experienced users know that all they have to do is start PowerPoint then open the file normally to gain full access to it.
Distribute a show within a show
A Powerpoint newsgroup user (you know who you are, Glenna) suggests this devilishly devious trick:
- Create and save your presentation as a PowerPoint show (PPS or PPSX).
- Open a new presentation and use the Insert | Object command, then select the file you just created. Do not check the link or icon checkboxes.
- Resize your embedded show object to cover the entire slide you just inserted it into.
- Use the custom animations settings to make it run automatically, etc. However you want it to appear.
- Use Action Settings to set Object Action to SHOW.
- Save your new file as a PowerPoint Show (PPS/PPSX). You may have to experiment a little to get the exact results you want.
A really knowledgeable PowerPoint user may still be able to get around this trick, but it should work quite well in most cases. And it's simple. And free.
Distribute your presentation inside a password-protected ZIP file or self-extracting EXE created from a ZIP file. Software and knowhow about ZIP files here
PowerPoint 2000 and earlier don't allow password protection, but Word and Excel do. You can embed your PowerPoint presentation in a Word or Excel file, then apply a password to the Word or Excel file.
Only people who have the password will be able to open the "container" Word/Excel file and from there open the PowerPoint file embedded within. People with the password will have complete access to the embedded PowerPoint file; they'll be able to edit it or even extract it to a standalone PPT file.
Don't distribute your real presentation
Distribute a presentation that contains only pictures of your presentation. Export each slide in your presentation to a WMF or bitmap (JPG, PNG, etc.) file, then import each of these files into a new presentation and scale them up to fill the slide. WMF will usually make for a smaller presentation, but can be ungrouped and edited to some degree; bitmap files can't be edited but will make your presentation file size larger.
PowerPoint 2010 and later can do this for you automatically. Save your presentation as a PowerPoint Picture Presentation file. Important: Save a copy of your original presentation first or save to a different name when you save as a Picture Presentation. You cannot convert a Picture Presentation back to the original PowerPoint presentation.
The PPTools Protect PowerPoint add-in automates the process and adds a few niceties. And it never wipes out your original presentation.
Distribute Acrobat/PDF files instead of PPT files
You can use Adobe's Acrobat or other software to convert your PPT presentations to PDF files or use the built-in Save As PDF feature in PowerPoint 2007 and later. PDFs can be password protected in two ways, against opening/viewing the file and against editing the file and/or copying text and graphics from it.
Other advantages to PDF:
- PDFs can also include embedded fonts, meaning that it's easier to ensure that your presentation's appearance doesn't change depending on what fonts are available on the system where it's viewed.
- Acrobat files can be very compact if created properly.
- PDFs work on both Mac and PC, including embedded fonts and passwords (neither of work in PowerPoint Mac).
- The free Reader for PDF files is probably already installed on many more computers than the PowerPoint viewer, so that's one less issue to contend with when you distribute your presentations.
Possible PDF issues:
- PDFs support page-to-page transitions but not animation, so all of your animations in PowerPoint will be lost when you convert to PDF.
- PDFs support hyperlinks, but some methods of making PDFs don't translate all of PowerPoint's links and other interactive features into PDF. If you need to preserve as many of these features as possible, use our PPTools Prep4PDF add-in. See PowerPoint vs. Acrobat for a comparison of the two programs as presentation distribution methods.
Distribute a movie of your presentation
PowerPoint Mac and PowerPoint 2010 and later can save your presentations to movie files. These can be easily viewed or, with suitable software, converted to DVDs that will play on any standard television with a DVD player.
You can also save your presentation as a series of images (see the Save As dialog box), then bring the images into Windows Movie Maker (free!) or similar software, add sounds, transitions, titles and so on, then save as a movie file.
Screen recording software like Camtasia from TechSmith records your presentation then gives you a very sophisticated set of editing and distribution options.
For very simple, short presentations, you might also use Camtasia's free Jing application. With it, you can record short presentations and sound; Jing also provides free online space to post your presentations on the web.
Another approach to distributing secured PowerPoint presentations is available from PowerPoint MVP Shyam Pillai. Salient features of Secure Pack:
- Pack single or multiple presentations into a single executable to be distributed.
- Hyperlinks and linked files, True Type fonts can be included. Cross linkages are resolved during pre-packing processing.
- Long file names supported
- Limit the number of times the show is executed.
- Enable editing support. Set archive password for extraction.
- Program group/Short cut links created for Viewing/Editing created on the Start Menu on first run
- Autorun.inf created
- Twin Security modes: High/Medium
- Clear Personal information from files.
Some versions of PowerPoint's Presentation Broadcasting allow you to show your presentation without allowing the recipients to download the file. There are other similar web-based screen-sharing programs that do the same or similar things.