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Why the Ability to Watermark Documents Matters for Applications

The ability to watermark documents is essential for many businesses. By utilizing watermarks, organizations can quickly brand their assets and take steps to protect their valuable intellectual property. When identifying mission critical document features for their applications, developers need to keep in mind all the ways that watermarks continue to be deployed for a variety of use cases.

What Is a Watermark?

A watermark is a semi-transparent line of text or an image that is embedded into a file to indicate that it belongs to a person or organization and cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission. In most instances, watermarks are visible, but some text-based watermarks are embedded in such a way that they only become visible after the document is scanned or printed.

Digital watermarks are one of the earliest and most effective forms of security for documents and images. They are most commonly used by photographers who want to protect their images from unauthorized usage. Their watermark is superimposed over the image, making it difficult to remove without also damaging the source image in the process. 

The same basic principle applies to documents, especially PDF files that are easy to download, view, and distribute. Many organizations continue to add specialized watermarks to their documents to protect both confidential information and intellectual property. Understanding which types of watermarks to use and why is an important aspect of effective document security.

Why Should You Watermark Documents?

There are a few reasons why an organization may want to watermark documents. Although they’re most often associated with security, they can be used for other purposes as well. Here are a few major use cases involving document watermarks:

Classify Documents More Easily

File management can be a challenge for organizations of all sizes. While steps like naming conventions can help somewhat, it can be difficult to keep track of which files can be shared openly and which ones should only be opened and viewed within a secure application environment. Watermarks can be added to documents to indicate how they should be handled. A contract that’s labeled “Confidential,” for instance, makes it clear to the user that they should follow the proper security precautions when viewing the file, such as not leaving the screen open unattended or not sharing their screen with another participant on a video call. It also removes any ambiguity about the nature of the document.

Track Your Documents

While many free watermarking tools only allow users to add a generic logo or text to a document, dedicated viewing solutions like PrizmDoc Viewer can create watermarks that contain unique identifiers, making it easier to track documents throughout their lifecycle. This makes it easier to track down the source of a leak or breach if a file ends up somewhere unexpected. In addition to the security benefits, customized watermarks that include a user name, time stamp, or revision number helps organizations maintain better version control over their documents and avoid any confusion over which file is the most up-to-date.

Discourage Unauthorized Distribution

Watermarks are an easy way to indicate ownership of a document and its contents. While many files, and PDF files especially, are protected by some form of digital rights management (DRM) that limits who can open, edit, or copy them, this form of security is often circumvented by inventive tactics like taking a screenshot, capturing video footage, or even photographing a screen with an external device. 

If the captured document has a watermark, it will be quite difficult for someone to distribute the file without revealing the owner. While it’s possible to remove a watermark without damaging the document contents, doing so can be a difficult and time-consuming process that often isn’t worth the effort. More importantly, if the watermark contains identifying information, it’s often possible to find out where a security breach occurred and then locate those responsible for it.

How to Watermark Documents

While many organizations understand the value of adding watermarks to their documents, they often don’t have the tools in place to do so effectively at scale. There are a number of free watermarking web applications available, but these sites typically require a file to be uploaded first, which creates a huge security risk for most businesses. In many cases, this process is also irreversible because it burns the watermark into the document itself. 

Microsoft Word can easily add watermark text or images to a document, but they’re also quite easy to remove. In fact, a quick Google search points to multiple resources for removing Word-based watermarks from both DOCX and PDF files.

PrizmDoc Viewer supports multiple forms of document watermarks natively within an application, including identifying text, diagonal text, and images. More importantly, since the watermark is associated with the document viewing session, it isn’t applied to the source document itself, which remains secure within the main application. Watermark document properties can be specified to include more than one watermark in a viewing session, even supporting mixed types on different areas of the page.

Text Watermarks

The watermark API for PrizmDoc Viewer allows users to adjust the location, size, and style of the text. Information included can be adjusted based on document needs.

Diagonal Text Watermarks

PrizmDoc Viewer can apply a single directional text watermark across the center of the page. By including control characters in the text string, it’s possible to create line breaks in the text.

Image Watermarks

The watermark API can also add a transparent PNG file to the document, which is ideal for displaying a company logo. PrizmDoc Viewer can adjust the opacity of the watermark regardless of whether it’s an image or text.

By adding multiple watermarks, organizations can easily brand their files across the company while also providing effective tracking information for individual documents.

Start Watermarking Documents Today with PrizmDoc Viewer

A fully-featured HTML5 viewer, Accusoft’s PrizmDoc Viewer is easily integrated into web applications in need of comprehensive viewing and document management capabilities. In addition to watermarking, it delivers conversion, OCR, annotation, and redaction support for more than 100 different file types. Get a hands-on view of how easily PrizmDoc Viewer can apply custom watermarks to your documents with our watermarking API demo.