5 Ways to Safely Redact a PDF with or Without Adobe Acrobat

Connie Wisley
November 28, 2023 Preview 53.0K Preview 1
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In office, we always need to share PDFs among colleagues or customers. Chances are that these PDFs may contains sensitive private data, and we need a way to redact these sensitive PDF files before sending it out. 

So, how to securely redact a PDF file? Is it enough to just black out the information, or can we redact PDF with Word? 

In this article, we’ll show you how to securely redact PDF files with or without Adobe, online or offline. We’ll take you through each method in detail. 


What exactly is PDF Redact?

In PDF publishing, there process of blacking out confidential information is called redacting. It is thought that the word was originally derived from the act of blacking out sensitive information in a paper with black ink.


Black out PDF VS Redact PDF

And then Many of you may be wondering, “Is redacting just a matter of applying color over the text?

Redact is different from black out. when you black out information in PDF files, the text or images isn’t actually removed. It simply hide the information, the text information remains underneath. If you use the search function, you can still search and locate the blacked information. 

Redact does more than just black out the text you need to hide, it at the same time erase the data.

For example, we use annotation tools and Redact tools to black out some text in a PDF file, as shown in the below image:

These two black out in the PDF documents look the same when viewed with a PDF reader. 

However, when you select each blacked out part, copy it, and paste the text into Notepad, you will get the following result.

  • You can see the text still appears in the notepad
  • You can not retrieve the characters redacted. 


Safely Redact PDF by using Cisdem PDFMaster

See, if we just black out the text, there is still a risk of leakage. Therefore, it is very important to use a verified and reliable redaction tool for PDF files. With it, you’ll sleep better at night when you share private PDF files with others.

Redact a PDF Without Adobe Pro

To protect us from any prospective troubles on sharing a PDF, we need to remove sensitive or highly confidential information from PDF on Mac or Windows. Based on this, Adobe products are almost featured with a redaction tool. But, can we redact a PDF without Adobe Pro? The answer is Yes.

If Adobe Acrobat is just not what you want, the best PDF redact tool in Cisdem PDFMaster would be another great assistant on Mac and Windows. You don’t have to worry at all about whether your text and images in PDF are really covered up or not. With PDFMaster, the redaction is burned into the PDF so that no one can retrieve the content. 

Besides, you can utilize this software to create PDF,  edit PDF, add comments to PDF, protect and unlock PDF, build forms, OCR scanned documents, add digital signatures, even compress PDFs. It’s a great PDF converter, a convenient PDF editor, a professional measuring tool, even a master of all your PDF files.

Here, I have a notice written before the solutions. Redaction means permanently removing certain information from your file, so you can’t retrieve the text and undo the redaction directly from regular PDF tool. We recommend that you save the document under a different name.

How to Redact a PDF without Adobe Pro?

  1. Download and launch Cisdem PDFMaster on your Windows.
    Free Download   Free Download
  2. Open Files from your computer for redaction.
  3. redact pdf master interfaceClick on the Protect tab and choose the Mark for Redaction tool. Then you can select the content you want to redact. redact pdf master01 
  4. Drag and drop your mouse to highlight the name, telephone, address or other sensitive information, then click the “√” icon under the area you draw.redact pdf master2
  5. A box will pop up reminding you that the step will permanently remove all items selected for redaction and it cannot be undone.redact pdf master3
  6. Click Apply to redact information in PDF.redact pdf master4

You can redact various types of information, including

  • Redact the text
  • Redact the image
  • Redact the entire page

Search and redact text

You can also search and redact the PDF. 

  1. Open the file you want to redact with Cisdem PDF Master .
  2. Click the [Protection] tab and click Mark for Redaction. Then Ctrl+F
  3. A search box will appear on the right side of the screen. Enter the characters you want to redact, then you can start redact it. 

Set appearance of redaction

It is also possible to change the redaction color and place comment for the redacted area. 

To set the appearance of redaction, you just need to click on the redaction area and it will show all the available options.

Edit PDF or and add other security to PDF

After Redacting the PDF file, you protect all the sensitive information from seeing and searching. With Cisdem PDFMaster, you can also directly edit text or images in the PDF file without converting it. Also, you can add a second security to your file by adding open (block people don’t know the password to open the PDF)or permission (block access to PDF editing, printing, copying, etc.)password to the PDF file.


Looking for Free Methods? 2 Free Ways to Redact Text in PDF

With more users requiring blacking out text in PDF, the technology is getting better and offered as free by some programs. For this, we find 2 solutions that can redact a PDF for free on Mac and Windows.

#1 Redact PDF on Mac with Preview

You can use Preview — a handy free PDF redaction tool to redact PDF on Mac for free. Note that this redaction tool was introduced in macOS 11 “Big Sur”. If you can’t update your version, then we can also use the marker tool to help you redact the text in PDF on Mac. Read on!

For macOS 11 and newer:

How to Redact PDF in Preview with the Redaction Tool?

  1. Open your PDF that needs to be redacted with Preview in macOS 11 or newer.
  2. Go to Tool > Redact. Or open the Show Markup Toolbar and click the Redact icon.redact pdf preview1
  3. A warning will present and click “OK”.redact pdf preview2
  4. Then drag your cursor to redact the text with black marks.redact pdf preview3
  5. You can change the redaction while editing this PDF. But as long as you save it, the text cannot be recovered.

For versions before macOS 11:

How to Redact PDF in Preview with the Markup Tool?

  1. Click the Show Markup Toolbar icon.
  2. Choose the Border Color as none or black, or any other colors to black out the text as needed. redact pdf preview4
  3. Click “Export as PDF” to save the redacted PDF on Mac. Don’t just “Save” after adding these redaction actions, otherwise, these redaction actions will be withdrawn by others with Preview and no information will be hidden or removed. 

#2 Redact PDF Online Free

Here is another entry-level free tool for users who don’t have Preview: redact PDF online for free. 

AvePDF is a web-based application that provides 50+ tools to process any document online. Other than redacting PDF, this online PDF solution offers high-level features such as capturing document from scanner, annotate a PDF, reduce PDF file size, hyper-compression, e-signature, add links to page, and advanced OCR. 

Compared to the maximum upload size set by other online programs, 256MB is sufficient for most uses. Moreover, with the help of AvePDF’s automatic detection, all documents are automatically deleted from this web after 30 minutes. 

How to Redact a PDF Online Free?

  1. Go to AvePDF > Protect > Redact PDF, and drop a PDF to the interface. (Max file size is 256 MB).redact pdf ave1
  2. Click Add redaction marks and black out any text in PDF. Your actions are recorded on the left, and you can even remove the redaction.redact pdf ave2
  3. Click Save on the top to save it on your computer or cloud storage service.


How to Redact a PDF in Word with 4 Steps?

Microsoft Word is one of the most popular word processors that supports turning PDF into editable. Since you can edit the text on the PDF, it is very easy to black out and cover up some private information. The black box created by Preview can be modified or deleted at will, but Word can edit text directly, and the text you want to hide can be covered directly.

Steps to Redact a PDF in Word:

  1. Open a PDF with Microsoft Word, click OK to start.
  2. Select the text that you need to black out.
  3. In the Home tab, choose the highlight tool. Then you can cover the text in black.redact pdf word
  4. Finally, go to File > Save to export the Word as a PDF document.


If You Have Already Installed Adobe Acrobat, Look Here!

If you are using Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat free trial, you won’t be able to use the redaction feature. Maybe you will use the markup feature in the Comment bar to black out text in PDF. However, just covering text up with a colored box is not enough to guarantee the safety of data and information, and permanent removal is still necessary with the help of professional tools.

Assuming you are a subscribed Adobe user, the redaction tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC will get your problem solved. Follow the steps below and try in your Acrobat Pro.

How to Redact PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC?

  1. Run Adobe Acrobat on your computer and import a PDF file you want to redact.
  2. Go to Tools > Redact.redact pdf adobe1
  3. Choose Mark for Redaction > Text & Images. Choose the part you want to redact and select. redact pdf adobe2
  4. Once you have selected the part to redact, go to Properties and choose the Redacted Area Fill Color as None (or black to hide the content). redact pdf adobe3
  5. Then “Apply”, the part you selected will be removed or hidden, you successfully redact PDF on Mac or Windows.redact pdf adobe4


Why Can't I Redact in PDF?

There are a part of users point out that they can’t redact text in PDF and don’t know why. If you are in a situation that the redaction tool button turn gray and don’t allow you to click on it. Go to File > Properties > Security, you can see if the file has some permissions set before. There is a high probability that the file has been set with permission to prohibit comments, so that the text cannot be redacted. In this case, find the permission creator to unlock the restriction. If the file is restricted to editing text only, redaction will generally not be affected. In addition, both scanned files and interactive files can successfully applying redaction.


Now, it’s over to you…

The importance of information security is growing day by day, PDF security is a vital part of it. When redacting a PDF document, don't just black it out, make sure to use professional software that also erase the data. Whether you need to redact PDF with or without Adobe Acrobat, it seems that the above mentioned 5 ways are all feasible and easy ways on Mac and Windows. If you want an unlimited and affordable desktop program, Cisdem PDFMaster is your best PDF assistant.

Free Download Windows 11/10/8/7 Free Download macOS 10.11 or later

Connie Wisley
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Connie has been writing for Mac productivity and utility apps since 2009. Each review and solution is based on her practical tests, she is aways energetic and trustworthy in this field.

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  • Frank

    I didn't use Adobe because it's really expensive for me, and I need a more affordable editor to redact my PDF. I think the professional editor in Cisdem you mentioned can meet my needs.

    1 years ago commonReply

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