How to: On-the-Fly Redacting with an Android Tablet

If you watched my video on signing pleadings, you saw how easy manipulating a PDF document on Android can be. Now, I’m going to expand on that discussion, and show you how to redact information from a PDF document using my favorite program, ezPDF Reader Multimedia PDF. Even though he’s an Apple guy, I have to credit my ABA Techshow co-presenter, Mark Unger, for inspiring this post.

Redaction, for those who don’t know, is the process of removing information from documents in order to protect private or classified information. You’ve probably seen redacted documents and didn’t know what they were called.

In the legal world, we use redaction to protect private information about clients or third parties. Most federal and state courts have local or statutory rules regarding redaction. FRCP 5.2 governs redaction on the civil side in federal court. There are also redaction procedures for bankruptcy and criminal cases.

The redaction process, with an Android tablet, is an easy concept to grasp if you’re familiar with highlighting and markups. Remember, in order for this process to work properly, you must have a PDF document which has been OCR’d (optical character recognition). I also recommend that you create a local copy of the document on your Android device, rather than work with the original.

In ezPDF, the highlighting and markups toolbar is (most often) located at the top of the page.

ezPDF Menu Bar

The toolbar will allow you to add comments, make annotations, insert pictures, underline or redline, and most importantly for our purpose, highlight.

Highlight Buttons

There are two highlight options. The left button (drag text on screen) allows you to drag along the words to highlight. The right button brings up a “highlight only” field that is specifically for highlighting. I prefer this screen for redaction, since this allows you to select the appropriate highlighting color – my default highlighting color is green, but for redaction I use black.

Highlight Color

Adjust all of the colors down to create black, and select OK to set your choice.

From here, the process is just a matter of simply selecting the words to redact and highlighting the text using the black highlighter tool.

Redacted Document

The final step is to “flatten” the pages. This causes the document notations to adhere to the page, as though they were present on the page to begin with. You’ll find the Flatten All Annotations function under the More Options menu in the lower right-hand part of the screen.

Flatten All Annotations

Note, you might have to scroll down to find the option.

Click Flatten All Annotations and you’ll receive a warning dialog cautioning you about the repercussions of the flatten function.

Flatten All Annotations Warning

This is why you want to use a backup copy and not the original document. Click OK and your redactions get finalized. I don’t think you want to get caught altering original documents, so once again use a backup saved locally onto your tablet.

The number of annotations to flatten will determine the length of time to complete the process. Let the process complete before force closing the app.

When you’re finished, you’ll have a beautifully-redacted document.

You may find some shortcuts to this process, such as long-pressing on a word to bring up the annotations menu, and you’ll want to tinker with your redactions. In my example, because I quickly removed text, I also neglected to leave the sidebar numbering. This doesn’t distract too much from the finished product, but depending on the document, could end up being crucial. Once again, double check everything before you finalize and flatten your annotations.

 So, now you have absolutely no excuse to dump the black marker and copies.

2 Responses to How to: On-the-Fly Redacting with an Android Tablet

  1. This sounds more like a workaround than a native solution. The redaction solution in Acrobat and other desktop applications have a Save As safeguard. Hope there comes around a true mobile pdf solution.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.