How to Redact a PDF with or Without Adobe Pro

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Carolyn Ryan
Updated on June 14, 2024 Preview 53.9K Preview 1
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In daily life, we always need to share PDF files. These PDFs may contain sensitive information which we don’t want others to see. This might be bank account information, numbers, contracts, medical records, etc.

Learning how to redact a PDF will help to get around this problem.

Use redaction function in Adobe Acrobat is what most people recommended. But there are actually multiple other ways to redact a PDF. For instance, Mac’s Preview includes redaction feature that can black out text permanently in PDF files. And for Windows users, one can easily use any free annotation tools to hide the information and then flatten the file so that others cannot edit or remove it.

To know more good ideas, continue reading this article! Here we’ll show you how to redact a PDF with or without Adobe Acrobat Pro. And we are happy to tell you that most of the methods are totally free.

 

Before Redacting a PDF, Read Carefully:

Redaction means removing sensitive or confidential information from a PDF permanently. It doesn’t allow to recover the redacted content or undo the redaction. So before the redaction process, you’d better save a copy of the PDF document under a different name.

 

Method 1: How to Redact a PDF Without Adobe Pro?

We all know one can use the redaction tool in Adobe Acrobat to redact a PDF file, but its UI design is unfriendly to a novice, and it costs $239.88 per year to activate the redact function.

Cisdem PDFMaster is considered the best alternative to Adobe Acrobat to redact a PDF. It is an all-in-one PDF toolkit that includes everything you need in Adobe Acrobat at a fifth of the price. With its built-in redaction feature, users can redact any specific part of a PDF (no matter the PDF is scanned, signed or protected) and make comments on the redaction mark. And if you need to redact multiple pages at once, this software provides 3 page range options for your choice. Once the redaction is applied to the document, no one can retrieve its content.  

Besides redacting a PDF, you can also utilize PDFMaster to create and convert PDF, edit PDF, annotate PDF, protect and unlock PDF, build forms, OCR scanned documents, add digital signatures, combine and split PDF, etc. 

Download and launch Cisdem PDFMaster on your Mac or computer.

Free Download Windows 11/10/8/7 Free Download macOS 10.13 or later

How to Redact a PDF Without Adobe Pro?

  1. Open a PDF File in PDFMaster.redact pdf cisdem01
  2. Click Redact tab on the top toolbar.
  3. Select the texts or images you want to redact.

     

  4. If you want to redact multiple pages at once, choose Repeat Mark Across Pages from right-click menu.redact pdf cisdem02
  5. Few page options are provided for your choice.redact pdf cisdem03
  6. To change PDF redaction settings, choose Properties from right-click menu instead. It supports customizing color and adding text over the redaction mark.
  7. When everything is done, click Apply twice to confirm the action.
    redact pdf cisdem04

How to Redact a Signed PDF in Cisdem PDFMaster?

In general, a PDF document that contains a digital signature does not allow any modifications to it, including marking the redaction. If you are the signer, find the unsigned original, redact it, and sign it again digitally. If you don't keep the original, don’t worry, PDFMaster can also help you with this problem.

  1. Open the signed PDF with Cisdem PDFMaster.
  2. Select Redact feature from the menu bar, the program will remind you that the digital signature created before will be lost, confirm it with Save.redact pdf cisdem05
  3. Now you can redact this PDF easily like a native PDF. The steps are the same as the above.
  4. (Optional) After applying the redaction, you can re-create a digital signature in this software directly or using other tools. Please refer to this article:  https://www.cisdem.com/resource/how-to-sign-a-pdf-on-mac.html.

 

Method 2: How to Redact a PDF in Adobe Acrobat?

For subscribed Adobe users, the redaction tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro will easily redact sensitive information in PDF.

How to Redact PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro?

  1. Open a PDF in Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Then choose Tools and search Redact.
    redact pdf adobe01
  3. Click Add.
  4. Choose the images and text to redact and click Apply.  
  5. In the Apply redactions window, click Continue
  6. Then click Save to get the new sanitized document.

Method 3: Redact PDF on Mac with Preview

Mac’s build-in PDF reader - Preview can also work as a handy free PDF editor which comes with PDF redaction tool. Note that this redaction tool was introduced in macOS 11 “Big Sur”. If your Mac system is in macOS 11 or later, you can just follow the steps below. Or if not, we also introduced how you can use the marker tool to redact text in PDF on Mac. 

How to Redact a PDF in Preview (For macOS 11 and newer)

  1. Open PDF with Preview by default.
  2. Go to Tools > Redactredact pdf preview1
  3. Click OK to accept permanently remove redacted content. redact pdf preview2
  4. Drag the cursor to redact text or images in PDF.redact pdf preview3

How to Redact PDF on Mac Preview (Versions before macOS 11)

  1. Right click on the PDF and open it with Preview.
  2. Click ViewShow Markup Toolbar
  3. Choose a shape and set its outline and fill color as black. 
  4. Drag your mouse to draw the shape on the sensitive information.
  5. Export this PDF as images to make the blacked out content irrecoverable.
  6. (Optional) If needed, you can exported the images back to PDF in Preview.. 

 

Mehtod 4: Redact PDF Free Offline--LibreOffice

For Windows users, LibreOffice is a totally free tool that supports redact and black out private information. It has built a redact function that supports adding rectangle, free form to hide information in PDF and one can choose to export the redacted PDF in white or black. 

The downside of this option is that sometimes it will load PDF files in a mess (you can see in the below screenshots, our PDF shows a strange logo in the top) and the output quality has a lower resolution than the original PDF.

How to Redact a PDF Free?

  1. Drag and drop the PDF file to the main interface of LibreOffice.
  2. Click ToolsRedact, choose a way you want to redact the PDF. Here we choose Rectangle.
  3. In the right Properties window, there are various settings about Character, Paragraph, Area, Line and so on. Adjust them as per your preference.
  4. After adding all the redactions, click Tools > Redact > Export Redacted PDF (Black) and set location and file name to save the new redacted PDF.
  5. Now you can open and check the redaction marks.

 

Method 5: Redact PDF Free Offline-XChange Editor

Just like black out information in a paper and then scan it, we can also use free PDF annotation tools like PDF-XChange Editor to blackout information in PDF files and then use Microsoft print to flatten the PDF so that others who receive the PDF can not move the black rectangle, delete it or make it transparent.

Download the free portable version of PDF-XChange Editor here: you can find the download link right below the version information, just choose 32 bit or 64 bit according to your needs.

How to Redact PDF Free?

  1. Open your PDF in PDF-XChange Editor.redact pdf xchange01
  2. Click Comment > Highlight on the top toolbar. Long press the mouse on the Highlight icon, it will show a Comment Styles Palette option, click on it.
  3. In the pop up window, click on any Style and press Clone. Change the fill color to black and verify the Opacity is 100%.
  4. Close the Comment Styles palette window, highlight the text or images you want to redact.
  5. Go to Print menu, change the Printer Name to Microsoft Print to PDF. Make sure to tick Print as Image to ensure irreversible flattening.redact pdf xchange02

 

Method 6: Redact a PDF Free Online--iLovePDF

iLovePDF is a PDF service well reviewed by a large number of users, which offers both web-based tools and desktop application. Its online tools available are totally free to use. And recently, it has added 3 new advanced features for online free uses, including OCR PDF, Compare PDF and Redact PDF. You can upload a PDF file smaller than 400 MB when using the redaction tool.

The disadvantage of iLovePDF is that it merely supports redacting the text in a PDF, while there is no way to select the images or other non-text elements.

Tutorial on How to Redact PDF in iLovePDF

  1. Go to the website: https://www.ilovepdf.com/redact-pdf.
  2. Select a PDF file from your computer to import.redact a pdf free01
  3. Click Redact at the top left, select the text you want to redact. You can type targeted text in the search box for navigation.redact a pdf free02
  4. All your redaction marks will display on the right, remove unnecessary one directly as you want.
  5. Make sure the redaction is right, click Redact and download the redacted PDF.redact a pdf free03

 

Method 7: Redact a PDF Free Online--AvePDF

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

It has a maximum upload size of 128MB, much larger than the other online sites, which is sufficient for most uses. Besides, all documents will be automatically deleted from this web after 30 minutes.

Limitation of free version: 2 tasks per 6 hours for free.

How to Redact a PDF Online Free?

  1. Go to AvePDF > Protect > Redact PDFs, drop a PDF into the work interface.
  2. Click Add redaction marks and black out any text in PDF.
  3. It will list all redaction marks on the left and you can easily remove one.
  4. Click on Save and it will start redacting the PDF.
  5. Now click Download.

FAQs About Redacting a PDF

1. What does redact a PDF mean?

In PDF publishing, the 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.

2. How to ensure redacted information is permanently removed?

Some sites and tools claim that they can redact PDF, but the truth is that they only blackout the information with highlighters or shapes and focus on the visual outcome, but actually this information can be recovered and located by others.

Rest assured. There are two steps you can take to verify that all sensitive information has been securely redacted:

#1. Search for specific keywords or phrases in PDF.

You can try to search for any keywords or phrases you have redacted in the PDF file and check if it can still be searched, if yes, then this is not a real redaction. (Shortcuts: Ctrl + F keys)

#2. Copy and paste the information from the redacted file.

We can also try to copy and paste the blackout information and see if it can be copied and pasted.

These two kinds of black out in the PDF documents look the same when viewed with a PDF reader. However, when you select each blacked out part, copy and paste them to Notepad, you will get the following result.

  • Black out: You can see the text still appears in the notepad.
  • Redact: You can not retrieve the characters redacted.

3. Can redacted information be recovered?

From the above part, you know that if you use a real redaction tool, the information is permanently deleted and unrecoverable, so be sure to make a copy of the document before the redaction. 

4. Why can't I redact a PDF?

There are a part of users pointing out that they can’t redact text in PDF and don’t know why. If you are in a situation where the redaction tool button turn gray and doesn’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 apply redaction.

5. Are there any alternative solutions for protecting sensitive information in PDF?

One can also add password to a PDF file. And there are two kinds of PDF password
PDF Open Password: As its name suggests, this means you add a password to a PDF file and control who can open the PDF file.
PDF Permission Password: With a permission password, you can set limit on PDF printing, copying, pasting, editing, etc.

You can use tools like preview and PDFMaster to add password to a PDF file.

 

Conclusion

And that's all there is to redacting a PDF. All these 7 methods can keep sensitive information in PDF away from those who shouldn't be able to view it.

PDF security is a vital part of business process. When redacting a PDF document, don't just black it out, make sure that use professional PDF redaction software to permanently erase the data. 

If you want an easy and safe offline option, Cisdem PDFMaster is your best PDF assistant,  it can safely redact a PDF file and offer all of its functions for users to test for 7 days. Just download and see how it can help you edit and redact a PDF file.

Free Download Windows 11/10/8/7 Free Download macOS 10.13 or later

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Carolyn Ryan
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Carolyn has always been passionate about reading and writing, so she joined Cisdem as an editor as soon as she graduated from university. She focuses on writing how-to articles about PDF editing and conversion.

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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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