Acrobat 8 New Features: Redaction

Redaction is the permanent deletion of data from documents.

Documents are redacted in order to maintain privacy, censor state secrets, or protect intellectual property.

I have written about Redaction previously in this blog ( Redacting PDFs | Redaction Part 2: Something Else You Shouldn’t Do ) pointing out the dangers of improperly redacting files.

Acrobat 8 Professional now make many of the dangers and workarounds moot, so this is a welcome tool for the legal market.

NOTE: Since I wrote this original article, Acrobat 9 and Acrobat X both have included many advances in Redaction.

The new redaction tools are quite powerful. Let’s take a look…

Redaction Workflow

Redactions must be carefully applied and managed. Here is a recommend redaction workflow::

  1. Determine what kind of information needs to be redacted by consulting the judges orders, court rules, or rules of discovery
  2. OCR image-only PDFs to enable searching
  3. Mark all items for redaction using tools in Acrobat 8 Professional
  4. Review items marked for redaction using Acrobat commenting and annotation tools and procedures
  5. Apply Redactions to permanently delete information
  6. Use Examine Document to remove metadata and OCR text if you wish
  7. Save documents under a new name

You may prefer to duplicate your document set as a safeguard prior to applying redactions.

Redaction Toolbar

To view the Redaction toolbar, go to View—>Toolbars—>Redaction:

Context Sensitive

The Mark for Redaction Tool cursor changes depending the content to be redacted.

If you place the cursor over an image or if no objects are present, a cross hair cursor appears. Use this cursor to draw a rectangular selection area to redact. Anything found within the area— images, text, vector objects— will be “cut out” and redacted.

When you hover over text, the Mark for Redaction tool becomes a text selection cursor:

Use this tool to select text on a PDF Normal document or OCR’ d document.

Previewing a Redaction

Using the Mark for Redaction tool, you may preview the redacted item:

Changing the Appearance of Redactions

By default, redactions appear as solid black rectangles. The default appearance serves most folks just fine, but may be customized:

To change the appearance of a redacted item, right-click and choose Properties:

You may set a number of options such as…

Redaction Properties

The Redaction Properties window is straightforward. Options below are referred by number:

  1. Set the color of the redaction here. You may also choose “no color” as an option.
  2. You may have overlay text on top of the redaction. I like white text on top of black for readability
  3. Choose typeface for overlay text
  4. Set font size for overlay text
  5. Auto-size scales the text to fit the width of the redacted area
  6. Set color of overlay text
  7. Enable to repeat the text over the redacted area
  8. Set alignment of overlay text
  9. Enable and type in the text string to appear on top of the redaction
  10. Redaction Codes.
    Redaction codes pre-defined sets of text used to denote the reason or statute under which the redaction was made. Acrobat 8 Professional includes two pre-populate sets— U.S. FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and U.S. Privacy Act. You can also create and save your own sets.

To change the default appearance of all redaction marks:

  1. Use the Mark for Redaction tool to create a redacted item
  2. Right-click and choose Properties to change the appearance. Click OK.
  3. Right-click on the item and choose “Make Current Properties Default”

Search and Redact

Acrobat 8 Professional’s Search and Redact feature may be used to search for text strings in a single document or across an entire directory of documents.

To search and redact, try one of the following:

  1. Click Search and Redact on the Redaction Toolbar
  2. Advanced—>Redaction—>Search and Redact

Type in text to search in the current document, or click the “Search In” menu to browse to folder of files to perform cross-document search.

Serach and Redact

Review the “hits” in each document and check any you wish to redact. There is a “check all” button available. Click the Mark for Redaction button to mark all search results for redaction.

Redactions are Annotations

Redactions in Acrobat 8 Professional are managed using the commenting and annotation tools. Thus, you can:

  1. Add notes and comments to Redacted items and send them to another Acrobat Professional user to review, reply to or change
  2. Summarize comments and notes attached to redacted items as part of a review or archival workflow
  3. Approve, reject or delete items to be redacted using the Comments Panel

To add a note/comment to an item marked for redaction, do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the item and choose “Open Pop-up Note”
  • Double-click on the item

To view the Comment panel, choose one of these methods:

  • Click the Comment Icon in the navigation panel (lower left corner of Acrobat document window)
  • Comment—>Show Comments List

Applying Redactions

Applying Redactions in Acrobat permanently removes the information from the document once you save it.

To apply redactions, do one of the following:

  • Right-click on an item marked for redaction and choose “Apply Redactions”
  • Click the Apply Redactions button on the Redaction toolbar
  • Advanced—>Redaction—>Apply Redactions

Redaction Limitations, Issues and Best Practices

Keep in the mind the following when taking on projects that require redaction:

  1. After you Apply Redactions, the Examine Document function will appear. This allows you to find additional hidden text, metadata, etc. and remove it.
  2. You will be prompted to rename the document when you choose File—>Save. Acrobat does not rename the document for you, so exercise care.
  3. Redactions must be applied individually, to each document.
  4. Search and Redact will only find text in searchable documents. OCR documents first. You can batch OCR in Acrobat Professional.
  5. Search and Redact does not offer pattern matching. e.g. number strings, etc.
  6. Carefully review all documents prior to submission in discovery. A two-person review team will catch many more errors than a single person.
  7. Know your court rules and judges orders regarding redaction. Ask the clerk of the court for clarification if you need more information.

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