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What is PDF Redaction Software?

By Solomon Branch
Updated May 16, 2024
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PDF redaction software allows for the redaction, or blocking out, of sensitive, confidential, or any unwanted information in a file created in the portable document format (PDF) format. It is often used in government agencies or large corporations. Law firms and insurance companies also use this software to create documents before they are submitted to a general audience.

The PDF format was created by the Adobe® Corporation in the early 1990s as an easier way to share documentation across different platforms and operating systems. It is now considered open-source, which means the basic technology can be used by anyone to create PDF software. This file format can combine multiple types of text, images, fonts, and graphics files and store them in a file that is readable on multiple operating systems.

Most PDF readers, regardless of manufacturer, are free. This makes it simple to share documents from a business or website because anyone with a computer connection can access the free software. Software to create, edit, or enhance a PDF file usually costs money, as the technology used is more complex. PDF redaction software also usually costs extra.

Although redaction means by definition to prepare for publishing, or in simpler terms “to edit”, the meaning today is more often associated out with the deletion of content. This could refer to large chunks of information that are not considered necessary as well as information that is considered sensitive or classified. In most cases, the document is presented with the redacted blocks of information shown for editing purposes, except in the case of classified documents, where it is blocked out entirely.

Redaction was originally done in a very simple way. A document that needed text redaction was either edited with a thick, black pen to cross out any pertinent information, or the text was actually cut out with a knife. A recent example of this would be the documents released as a result of the Freedom of Information Act. Although the documents were to be made public, much of the information was considered classified and had to be redacted. This was primarily done with a thick black mark across specific text, and many of the documents have only a few sentences that aren’t redacted.

With PDF redaction software, the redaction process is made simpler. The software is geared towards creating documents without the redacted information included or otherwise securing the information that can be seen. This allows for an extra layer of security with shared information. Although it is possible to redact a document using some of the tools in PDF software, it is usually not as detailed and secure as PDF redaction software. Many of the PDF redaction software packages are geared to a specific profession, such as lawyers or those in the insurance business.

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