Can anyone point me in the direction of how to create PDFs which are non-editable programatically? I want to automatically generate a PDF which cannot be editable using a PDF tool. Everything I can see is based on using the security settings manually within the Acrobat tool, but I wanted to know if there is another option?
I honestly don't know what you mean by programatically in this context but I can suggest that once you finish editing the document with Adobe Acrobat Pro you can save the form as Reader Extended.
Go to File, select Save As Other, Reader Extended, More Tools
Well in that case yes you can apply the Save as Other, Reader Extended More Tools, plus you can disallow any backward compatibility with earlier versions of Acrobat.
This would prevent Acrobat Pro users from editing any further the form.
They will be enabled to just fill & sign, comment and print.
The only way to save a copy is by printing, for example.
I did not suggested password methods in my reply since they are useless, specially when it comes to printing the form as a postcripted file (flattening or refrying if you may). There is nothing that prevent this, and even google chrome browser will remove such password security.
You may, however, consider applying a digital certification mechanism such as applying digital signatures which will allow you to review the validity of digital certificates which in return may allow you to to compare a document and see if it was tampered with.
This is not really my area but is the best suggestion I can offer to your inquiry at this time and to the best of my current rookie skill level.
Neverthess, If I were you I would give this approach a try, test it and sahre back your feedback on how did it worked for you.