I am running OS X 10.10, Yosemite, and there is one feature which really annoys me. I know it must be useful for a lot of people but it's just not for me.

When I open a PDF document and, by habit, I keep clicking on the text while reading it. There are some areas where Preview thinks I would like to insert text.

Preview screenshot

As soon as this happens, the PDF document is marked edited in the title bar. When I close the document, it saves (or tries to save) it, changing the modify date and other side-effects such as triggering the DropBox sync etc.

I have accidentally inserted some text in many documents because Preview doesn't ask before saving the modified copy.

I would like to disable all PDF editing features unless explicitly invoked. Is it possible to do that?

  • 2
    This behaviour is already there in mavericks (the previous version of OSX) so it is not very much off-topic imho.
    – Gyom
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 13:52
  • 3
    nominated for re-opening since this is still the behaviour in the now-released Yosemite (not to mention has been an existing issue in previous versions) Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 5:22
  • 1
    This is just so terribly annoying. My crafted page numbers completely disappear once it starts "editing". Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 18:47
  • 7
    Two years later, still the same problem... (on El Capitan) Do people at Apple use their own product?
    – Arthur
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 21:26

5 Answers 5


According to me, the best way to resolve this, is to go to System Preferences -> General. Make sure "Ask to keep changes when closing documents" is selected.

General preferences panel

This will prevent accidental changes in PDF files, as well as other files when opened by other apps.

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    – Allan
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 12:56
  • This option doesn't seem to be available on Preview 9.0 (909.12) on Sierra 10.12.2.
    – flyboy777
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:39
  • It works on Sierra 10.12.6. Don't know about earlier versions.
    – Jacob
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 15:41
  • Works on El Capitan 10.11.6 -- thanks for posting!
    – Jason S
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 18:42

Rectangular Selection Tool

A pretty poor solution to this is change the selection mode from Text Selection to Rectangular Selection in the Tools menu.

Tools menu: selection mode

This stops you inserting random text fields, but also prevents you from selecting text, which may be equally annoying.

Locking the Document

If the document has been saved*, you can lock it...

* (there is a state for temporary files, e.g. email attachments you've opened directly from the email in Apple's Mail.app, where they are aware they're a temporary file, so pressing Save opens up a Save As dialog, and you cannot lock the document)

Locked document

However, while this prevents you from editing it, if you now click in one of those places that results in a new text field, you get a rather annoying pop-up dialogue asking if you want to unlock or duplicate the document:

Locked document: unlock/duplicate dialogue

So this too is not an ideal solution, because it interrupts you perhaps even more than the inadvertent-text-entry-box, but technically prevents you from editing it if the Dropbox sync or similar is the main concern.

Apple Feedback

I suspect there isn't a simple way of disabling/re-enabling the auto-form-filling features of Preview (which are amazing when you want them!), so would suggest you send feedback to Apple on this one.


I have the same habit of selecting text as I'm reading. If I change anything by accident (I also tend to shuffle pages) I just push Cmd-Z and the page status goes from Edited back to Normal. I just tested this with a file in Dropbox and it didn't fire (i.e. it’s not saving the document if you undo before closing the window).

Not perfect, but it works for me.

  • 1
    Cmd-Z reverts back the possibly inserted text, but does not remove the text input box, nor does it set the status back to Normal for me. Also, the Edit->Undo menu is greyed out.
    – fishinear
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 14:25
  • 1
    @fishinear: If you first unselect the text box (by clicking outside it (and hoping you don't create a new text box by that)) the undo should work as described.
    – siegi
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 6:12

The issue here is largely caused by Apple's change to the Document model introduced in Lion, with changes to the document being auto-saved. While this behaviour is desirable in, say, a Word processor, it's not so desirable in an app like Preview, which is often used for Viewing originals that should not be edited.

You can turn off Apple's Auto-save in Preview with the following Terminal command:

defaults write -app 'Preview' ApplePersistence -bool no

As a result, if you accidentally click on the document and create a Text Annotation, the change will not be saved unless you manually save the document.

EDIT: This no longer seems to work in Mojave and upwards. If you truly want a read-only PDF viewer (or one that requires explicit saves), you may need to use another application.


Go under File->Print, choose Save as PDF in the drop-down PDF menu in the lower left corner of the dialog box. Works like a charm.

  • 4
    How does this disable editing?
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 10:13
  • Saved file is going to be uneditable. Try it, when that worked please get back your downvote.
    – alwaysprep
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 13:15
  • 7
    @alwaysprep This answer doesn't work. I think you've misunderstood the question. Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 11:42
  • that's very simple & that's what I was looking for tks.
    – vintagexav
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 11:22
  • This WORKS for me!!! Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 5:34

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