bad encrypt dictionary

For a few days I’ve been trying to figure out why an Adobe Acrobat document I created on one computer wouldn’t open on another computer. When I tried to open it, I’d receive an error message that said simply “bad encrypt dictionary”. That’s it.

I created the document in Acrobat 7.0, and encrypted it with 7.0 encryption (the program offers options for different levels or versions of encryption). I tried searching with Google for the error message, but there were so many posts about DRM (digital rights management) that I couldn’t see the fix quickly or easily. (With so many students applying to the UCs and Stanford, it’s been a very busy week, so I couldn’t spend more than a few minutes searching.) It turned out to be a really simple thing–the 6.0 Reader I was using couldn’t read 7.0 encryption, so updating this version of Adobe Acrobat Reader solved the problem.

When will software companies realize that creating user-friendly error messages will certainly result in greater usage, sales, and satisfaction for their products? For example, why couldn’t this error message read something like this:

The version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (“the Reader”) that you are using cannot open your document because the Reader does not understand the encryption method used in your document. It is possible that your document uses a more current method of encryption than your Reader can understand, so you should try updating your Reader by opening the Reader, clicking Help, and then clicking Check for updates now… If that doesn’t work, you could try visiting the Adobe User-to-User Forums for free, non-guaranteed support.

Yeah, I know why–too much work and too difficult.


  1. Gets better if you use acrobat 6.0 it can’t read the encryption. If they have 6.01 (the bug fix) they can. Problem is there are a lot of 6.0 installations out there

  2. Thank you for your post. This helped immensely with the same problem you experienced.

    thank you thank you!

  3. Thanks. I had an idea this was the problem BUT didn’t want to spend the time d/ling the new version on a slow internet connection. Now I guess it appears I must.

    Thanks for the info/confirmation.

    The answer to your question is quite simply that software programmers make software — not users. I think software will become more user-friendly in the next decade or so, as the emphasis shifts away from hardware performance to usability (as hardware advances slow).


  4. I believe the best answer is to just stop using Adobe’s crappy software. It’s slow, it’s annoying, and a pain in the but. I’ve found that FoxIt Reader does a fantastic job as a PDF reader. I’ve never used the creator.

  5. This makes alot of sense. What happens if you are running a Windows 98se operating system. The upgrades are only for newer operating systems. Is there a bug fix for this? Thanks.

  6. It’s probably going to be hard to find updates for something like Windows 98 (since it’s so old). You could use an online viewer, something like Google Apps, to view the PDF.

  7. Thanks for this post! I had a similar problem and I updated to adobe 7. Man what a relief to open a document that I paid good money for!

  8. The solution to the “bad encrypt dictionary” issue in Adobe Acrobat 6.0 is quite simple: Go to HELP, then go to UPDATES. Then SELECT and ADD all of them. Press OK.
    Next, close the program. When you open it again, open the document causing Acrobat 6.0 to give you the “bad encrypt dictionary” message. It will tell you that “this PDF form requires a new version of of Adobe Acrobat.” Follow the instructions, and update again. Then close the program and reopen it.

    Again, open the program and the document. The least that could happen is that you will see the actual data. In any case, you would be able to work on the document or form within the constraints of Acrobat 6.0 itself.

    • None of it works on Windows 7. Looked on web for filters, etc. There are none. None of these stinkin third party excuses are worth the time – they don’t do what Acrobat does. Adobe does not provide any way to address this directly to them. Their technical “support” is “premium” only. Worse yet they control so much of the market, pdfs are used by so many this corporate giant doesn’t have to care.

  9. I have 6.0 standard, have added all the updates and still cant read the new accrobat. I also went to 9,0 reader but I need to use the standard as the document I am trying to read I need to cut some refs out.

    Any ideas other than buying a later version?

  10. I have tried to install the updates but do not have the CD, so it will not let me. Can someone please help with this?

  11. The message “There was an error in opening this document. Bad encrypt dictionary” appears when one is attempting to open an Adobe 7 document in an earlier version. What it indicates is that images in the document are encoded in JPG2000 or JBIG, and suitable plugins are not available to the Adobe Reader in use.
    There are no versions of Adobe Reader 6 that can be used to open such a file – I have tried them all – up to Adobe Reader 6.0.6 – so forget that route.
    There is a solution availabe for those of us still attached to our Windows 98, and therefore not in a position to use Adobe Reader 7.
    Download FoxIt Reader 2 from, for example, It is a small download – in the region of 2Mb and easily installed. Once this is done, attempt to open your problem PDF with this program whilst on-line, and FoxIt will fetch the relevent plug-in for you – a small 160 kb package and follwing its self-installation your problems will be solved.

  12. you have no Idea how much this helped me
    now my mom can stop bugging me to fix the problem

  13. when will software companies realize … ?

    Well, if it’s ADOBE I can almost guarantee, they will never. They are too arrogant. So much arrogant that I’d decided to ditch them and even forget their name.

    Worse – why would they produce such a piece of crap anyway? MONEY! !!!

    There is only one answer to Acrobat, in specific …

    !!! – – – – – – !!!

    These are folk they understand a “consumer”

  14. I’m on Windows Millennium and the FoxIt download (link above) fixed my problem. Many thanks to greig russell

  15. FoxIt Reader worked when Adobe and Adobe Reader did not. Thanks, Greig!

  16. I reciently had a similar experience. I just uploaded via FTP the Acrobat File that I could not open then opened up the file with Google Chrome using the URL on my website… BINGO!!! Worked!!

  17. Thanks, I prepare court documents and haven’t been able to do so for several months from my home computer; my Adobe 6.0 wasn’t reading the forms. Your remedy was simple, cost me 4 min and jumped started my business.

  18. Dropping “bad encrypt dictionary” Pdf directly onto Chrome open browser window worked like a charm. Then simply save back as Pdf to have file save and open as normal. Mac OS 10.6.5, Acrobat 6.0.1, Chrome 12.0.742.122.

  19. Thanks for the help, everyone!!! I just got the new version of Family Tree Maker 2012 and their Companion Guide could not be read in my current Adobe Acrobat. support could/would not help me. I have Adobe Acrobat Pro version 6.0.6 and no updates are available as suggested by someone else. Adobe would not read the file when it was the default PDF reader, giving the message “cannot read file … bad encrypt dictionary.” I downloaded Fox-it PDF Reader, set it as my default PDF reader, opened Family Tree Maker, went to Help and selected the Companion Guide and it opened just fine in Fox-it. Was able to save the file, but still couldn’t read it in Adobe Pro 6. Using Fox-it, I then reprinted it to my Adobe PDF printer so that I can save a readable copy on my hard drive. It’s very slow to re-print at almost 400 pages… And, now it works in Adobe 6 🙂 Have sent the suggestions from Adobe on how to create a compatible file ( to Ancestry support so maybe they can get their tech folks to re-create it in a more user-friendly way.

  20. The comments have been invaluable to point me in the right direction to solve this problem.

    As suggested I tried Foxit, and they were great and supportive, but I still could not open the doc on their software!

    I needed a fast and workable solution. I had to work the file I had.

    Here’s what I found out folks that works to cure this problem.

    When that “bad encrypt dictionary” message appears it usually means there is a restriction in the pdf file that the lower versions of Acrobat cannot open. The restriction is usually a password protection in addition to issues of image presence due to lower Acrobat versions.

    I have Acrobat 6.06. I did not want to spend $120 – $210 to upgrade for just one file.

    I went to kinko’s, and they opened the file no prob, but they had Acrobat ver 11 Pro. No kidding it opened. I didn’t have that version, and I did not want to spend the $ for the upgrade at this time.

    I have nothing against paying for upgrades, but what to do now to avoid the costly upgrade of Adobe?

    My file was 12.5 Mb! Ouch.

    So I went to If your file is smaller than 5 Mb the site will unlock it for free!

    If over 5 Mb they will ask for a $4.99 donation. That’s definitely worth it!

    I paid them the $4.99, and now I have a file I can open and manipulate as needed in my Acrobat Ver 6.06. is fantastic. Support them.

    I still think very highly of Adobe, and after teaching myself through great frustration to use it, I prefer to stay with it.

    Try this method.

  21. Adobe does this by design to try and upsell their product. It actually makes me abandon them.

    Free alternatives work fine such as Sumatra PDF.

    • I actually use Sumatra PDF. It’s not the prettiest application on the block, but it’s way faster than Acrobat Reader, and even faster than Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer.

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