To redact a document is to edit, or prepare for publishing. Frequently, a redacted document, such as a memo or e-mail message, has simply had personal, private or actionable information blacked out or deleted. Redacted is often used to describe documents from which sensitive information has been removed. You might want to publish a document that has you address, social security number or credit number. Just redact the private details and then you can share the PDF with confidence.

If you’re creating and want to a share a PDF with sensitive information, the easiest way to hide is to redact it. Redacting a PDF with Acrobat is easy. Here’s how to do it.

How not to Redact a PDF

Before we talk about how to redact a document, you need to know what not to do. Simply changing the background color to the same color as the font is not redacting. It’s foolish. Search engine can still index the content and the text can be selected, copied and displayed. It doesn’t work.

The Right Way to Redact a PDF

1) Open your PDF in Acrobat

 2) Under the “Advanced” menu, choose “Redaction” and choose “Mark for Redaction”. The “Using Redaction Tools” dialogue box will appear.


Using Redaction ToolsCredit: Andrew Hecht

You can quickly read through this, but once you understand it, click the “Don’t show again” check box and hit “OK”. That way it won’t come up every time.  

 3) Using your mouse, select the section that you want to redact. You’ll use the click and drag method. Start from the top left corner of the section you want to redact, click and hold the left mouse button and drag the mouse down and the right until the entire section is surround by box created by your mouse. When you let go, the section is surround by a red box. If you move your mouse over the box, it will turn black so you can preview the redaction. Don’t worry if you mess up. If you’re not happy with your selection, just hit CTRL+Z. This will undo your selection and you can start over.

4) If you’re happy with the selection, you’ll need to apply the redactions. Right click anywhere on the red box and choose “Apply Redactions”.  A warning box will appear explaining that you are about to permanently redact the content. This is true, but the redactions won’t really be permanent until you save the document. If you’re happy with the redaction and ready to continue, click the “OK” button.


Adobe Redaction Warning

5) When you click “OK”, yet another dialogue box will appear explaining that the redactions have been successfully applied. It also asks if you want to make more redactions. If you do, click “Yes” and return to step 3. If you’re done redacting, click “No”.


Abobe Acrobat Redactions Applied

The last thing to do is to save the document. You’ll want to choose “Save As” and give this file another name so you’ll have two files, the original and the redacted version. If you simply save the file, the redacted version that you just created will overwrite the original.

 That’s it. You have your redacted file. You can now share it safely with confidence that your personal and private information will not be exposed.