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4 Easy Ways to Redact PDF Text and Images [2024]

August 2, 2023 1.3K views

A friend mentions 'redact PDF' and suddenly, you're lost in a sea of unfamiliarity. Have you ever found yourself needing to conceal sensitive information in a PDF but weren't sure how? What is PDF redaction and what tools can help you achieve this? Fear not, as this article provides all the answers, guiding you effortlessly through the process of PDF redaction. Your pathway to secure document handling starts here.

Part 1:What is Redacting PDF and When Do I Need It?

Redacting a PDF involves permanently removing or obscuring sensitive or confidential information within the document. This could include personal details such as names, contact information, social security numbers, bank details, and more, as well as proprietary business information.

Redaction is not merely covering up information with black boxes; when done correctly, it ensures that the hidden data can't be uncovered or retrieved, maintaining the confidentiality of the information.

There are several instances when you might need to redact a PDF:

  1. Legal Proceedings: In legal documents, it's often necessary to protect the privacy of individuals or to comply with confidentiality agreements. Personal details, sensitive case specifics, or proprietary information can be redacted to maintain privacy and confidentiality.

  2. Business Transactions: If you're sharing a document that contains sensitive company information with people outside your organization, you may want to redact certain parts of the document.

  3. Academic Research: Researchers may need to redact sensitive information from their studies or reports, particularly if they involve human subjects.

  4. Government Documents: When releasing documents to the public, government agencies often need to redact sensitive or classified information to protect national security and individual privacy.

Remember, the goal of redacting a PDF is to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information while still providing as much useful information as possible.

Part 2: Useful Redacting PDF Tools

There are numerous tools that can be used to redact a PDF, ranging from software specifically designed for this task to features built into common PDF readers. Here are some of the most effective options:

1.  Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is a collection of software developed by Adobe Systems for creating, viewing, editing, printing, and managing files in Portable Document Format (PDF). Adobe Acrobat Pro DC provides a robust, reliable redaction tool and it is a free PDF editor. It can also redact pdf.

6 Steps on how to use it to redact PDF text and images:

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use it to redact PDF text and images.

STEP 1:

Open your PDF document: Launch Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and open the PDF document you wish to redact.

STEP 2:

Access the Redaction Tool: Navigate to the "Tools" tab in the top menu, then select "Protect & Standardize", and finally choose "Redact".

STEP 3:

Mark for Redaction: Click on "Mark for Redaction" in the toolbar that appears on the right. You can choose if you want to redact a "Text & Images" or "Pages". For text and images, you can then click and drag over the areas you want to redact. For pages, you will need to specify the page range.

STEP 4:

Specify Redaction Codes (Optional): If you want to add a note for why the information was redacted, you can choose "Redaction Code". This step is often used in legal and governmental contexts.

STEP 5:

Apply Redactions: Once you have marked all the necessary information, click "Apply" in the Redaction toolbar. A warning message will appear, reminding you that the redaction is permanent. Click "OK" to proceed.

STEP 6:

Save the Redacted Document: Finally, save your document. It's advisable to save it under a different name to avoid overwriting the original, unredacted document.

Remember, redaction is a permanent action. Once you apply redactions to a document and save it, the redacted information can't be retrieved. Make sure to review your markings carefully before applying redactions.

Pros

  • Multiplatform (desktop, mobile, and web)

  • Offers batch processing.

  • Fast high-quality output delivery.  

Cons

  • Pricey

  • The loading speed is too slow.

2. WPS Office

WPS Office is a free, lightweight, and feature-rich alternative that's compatible with MS Office file formats. It can also redact pdf. It offers excellent user experience and great functionalities.

5 Best Steps on how to use it to redact PDF text and images:

You can use WPS Office to redact PDF text and images by using the following steps:

STEP 1:

Open the PDF: Open the PDF file in WPS Office's PDF reader.

STEP 2:

Click the “Edit” button on WPS PDF.

STEP 3:

Now you can see a tool “wipe off”.

STEP 4:

Click this button “wipe off” and you can use it to redact your pdf.

STEP 5:

Save the PDF: Click "File" then "Save As" to save the edited document.

WPS Office is a free pdf editor that can redact pdf online and redact pdf free. It is very useful and easy to use software for redacting PDF text and images.

Pros

  • Free download

  • User-friendly interface that is easy to navigate

  • Available for both Windows and Mac

Cons

  • The free version comes with limitations

  • Its clipboard often fails

3.  Foxit

Foxit is a popular alternative to Adobe Acrobat for PDF creation and editing, offering a suite of tools to work with PDF documents, including a robust redaction tool. It can also redact pdf.

6 Steps on how to use Foxit Phantom PDF to redact text and images:

Here's how to use Foxit Phantom PDF to redact text and images:

STEP 1:

Open the PDF: Open the PDF document you want to redact in Foxit Phantom PDF.

STEP 2:

Access the Redaction Tools: Go to the "Protect" tab on the top menu, then click on "Mark for Redaction". This will allow you to select the areas you want to redact.

STEP 3:

Select Text or Images to Redact: Now, you can select the text or images that you want to redact. Simply click and drag your cursor over the area to be redacted. It will be marked with a red box.

STEP 4:

Apply Redaction: Once you have marked everything you want to redact, go back to the "Protect" tab and click "Apply Redactions". You'll see a warning message reminding you that this action can't be undone.

STEP 5:

Confirm Redaction: A dialogue box will appear to confirm that you want to redact the marked content. Click "Yes" to proceed.

STEP 6:

Save Your Document: It's advisable to save the redacted document under a new name to prevent overwriting the original file.

Remember that redaction is permanent. Once you apply redactions and save the document, the redacted information can't be recovered. Therefore, double-check the areas you've marked for redaction before you apply for it.

Pros

  • Multi-platform

  • Easy to use.

  • Powerful redaction tools

Cons

  • Converting from a Webpage can be glitchy.

  • Function limited.

4. Xodo

Xodo is a versatile PDF reader and editor that's available for free on many platforms, including Android, iOS, and Windows. It can also redact pdf. It's known for its user-friendly interface and robust feature set.

5 Steps on how to use Foxit Phantom PDF to redact text and images:

Here's a simple step.

STEP 1:

Open your PDF: Open the document you wish to work on with the Xodo app.

STEP 2:

Select the Rectangle Tool: Navigate to the 'Annotate' tab and select the rectangle tool in the toolbar.

STEP 3:

Cover the Sensitive Information: Draw a rectangle over the text or image you wish to obscure. Resize as necessary to cover the sensitive data completely.

STEP 4:

Change the Rectangle Color: Select the filled rectangle and change its color to black.

STEP 5:

Save Your Document: Save the PDF. You may wish to save under a new name to retain the original, unaltered document.

Pros

  • Quick and Easy

  • Platform Friendly

  • No software download required.

  • Have a free trial

Cons

  • Account registration required.

  • The free version has feature limitations.

Tips about Redacting PDF
  • Keep this in mind to Make a backup. Before you start redacting any PDF document, make a backup copy of the original file. This ensures that you have an unaltered version in case you need to refer to it or if any mistakes are made during the redaction process.

  • Keep this in mind to Protect the redacted PDF. If the redacted PDF needs to be shared or stored securely, consider using encryption or password protection features provided by the PDF editor. This adds an extra layer of security to prevent unauthorized access to the redacted information.

  • Keep this in mind to Use a tool or software that is designed specifically for redaction. General PDF editors may not remove the information completely.

  • Keep this in mind to Remember that PDFs can contain metadata, which is information about the document that isn't immediately visible (like author name, keywords, etc.). Be sure to remove or redact this as well if it contains sensitive information

Part 3: How Can I Undo a Redacted Document?

Once a file is saved with redactions applied, there's no way to get the information back. If you overwrite the original PDF with the redacted version, the redacted information is gone forever.

FAQs

Q1.Can I redact a pdf for free?

Yes, you can try the basic functions of the above tools for free or have a free trial.

Q2. Why can't I redact a PDF?

There could be several reasons why you're unable to redact a PDF:

  • Lack of Redaction Tools: The most common reason is that the PDF editing software you're using doesn't have a redaction tool. Many free PDF editors or readers, like Adobe Acrobat Reader DC or the basic version of Xodo, don't provide this feature. For proper redaction capabilities, you may need premium software like Adobe Acrobat Pro DC or Foxit Phantom PDF.

  • Permissions Issues: If the PDF is locked or secured by the creator, you may not have the permissions necessary to edit or redact the file. You will need the password, or the security restrictions removed to be able to redact information.

  • File Issues: The PDF could be corrupted, damaged, or improperly formatted, which can cause problems when trying to edit or redact.

  • Outdated Software: Your PDF editor might be outdated, causing functional issues. Ensure your software is updated to the latest version.

  • Incorrect Redaction Method: If you're using an improper method to redact, such as simply covering information with a black box, the data may still be recoverable. True redaction requires a tool that permanently removes the information from the document.

If you continue to face problems, consider reaching out to the customer support of the software you're using for assistance, or explore other software options that offer the specific redaction feature you need.

Q3. How to Black Out Text in PDF without Redacting?

You can black out text in a PDF without redacting it by using WPS Office. Here are the steps below that help you Black Out Text in PDF without Redacting.

  • Open the PDF Document: Launch WPS Office and open the PDF document you want to black out text in.

  • Switch to Edit Mode: Look for the 'Edit' tab and click on it. This will switch the PDF document to edit mode.

  • Select Text: Now, you need to select the text you want to black out. Click and drag your cursor over the text to select it.

  • Change Text Color: After selecting the text, look for the 'Font Color' option in the toolbar. Click on it and select black. This will change the color of the selected text to black, effectively blacking it out.

WPS Office: Use Word, Excel, and PPT for FREE, No Ads.

WPS Office emerges as a highly recommended solution for redacting PDF Text and Images, providing user-friendly features and intuitive functionality. Safeguard sensitive information effectively by utilizing WPS Office's powerful tools to black out or remove confidential content from PDF documents. Streamline your redaction process with this reliable and efficient software.


15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.