Plug-in for Acrobat Exchange and Windows rescues redaction process

Box Score  B+

Redax 1.5
Digital Applications Inc., Aldan, Pa.
tel. 610-284-4006
Price: $279

Pros and cons:
+        Only product that redacts .pdf files
+        Easily customizes redaction codes
–        Redacts rectangular areas only

Real-life requirements:
Adobe Acrobat Exchange 3.0 or later, Windows 3.x, Win95 or NT, 16M RAM, 24M for
NT, 486 or faster PC; System 7 or later, Power Mac, 16M RAM, 24M for System 8, less than
1M free on hard drive.

Paper documents aren’t dead yet. But digital documents are clearly the future for
government agencies moving into an information age.

Portable Document Format, developed by Adobe Systems Inc., has become a widespread
standard because .pdf files accommodate text and graphics, preserve document formatting
and are relatively compact.

But Adobe’s Acrobat Exchange program, which allows editing of .pdf documents,
isn’t well-equipped for redaction, or removing certain information before releasing
digital or other documents to the public.

Once again, a plug-in comes to the rescue.

Redax from Digital Applications Inc. is a unique, cheap plug-in for Acrobat Exchange
for Mac OS or Microsoft Windows. It provides tools needed by government agencies to redact
.pdf documents.

It’s adaptable for various types of redaction and provides simple but powerful

Agencies throughout government are moving to standardize on PDF for digital documents,
said Virginia Gavin, Redax designer and president of Digital Applications. Redax, released
last December, is the only available plug-in for redaction of .pdf files, she said.

Redax lets users search a .pdf document and mark words, phrases, images, illustrations
or other areas for removal. Users can also assign an exemption code to each marked item.
Redax discards the marked text and graphic areas, replacing text with dashes and graphics
with black rectangles.

Exemption codes appear where text and graphics were removed. When operations are
complete, users save the redacted document as a new .pdf file.

There is a way in Exchange to do some of this without Redax, but not easily. The real
value of Redax lies in how you can customize it and use it to automate redaction work.

Redax has two floating palettes that assign exemption codes to marked text and
graphics. One palette contains buttons for Freedom of Information Act codes, and the other
contains buttons for Privacy Act codes.

Where needed, buttons have pop-up menus of subsection codes, such as FOIA (b)(1)

Customize the palettes by showing or hiding any exemption code button. Redax also lets
users extend the palettes with exemption codes for a particular agency, such as the 30
codes used by the Defense Department, Gavin said.

Redax performs redaction automatically by choosing words and phrases from a saved list
and replacing them with exemption codes. You choose the Redact Using List command and
select the text file. Redax searches the document, marks the listed text and replaces it
with exemption codes.

You can install Redax by placing the Redax module and the Palettes text file in
Exchange’s Plug-Ins folder. This adds the Redax menu to the menu bar and places four
tools on the Exchange tool bar. Users can use the tools to mark rectangular areas, move
forward or backward to select marked items, attach notes to them and select colors for
marked items and exemption codes.

Documents processed by Redax are secure because redacted text and graphics are removed,
not just hidden. The process doesn’t change the original document, only a working
copy that gets saved as a new .pdf file.

An upgraded version of Redax will likely be released soon. Enhancements will include
polygon and freehand tools to mark nonrectangular areas and improved automated searches
without case sensitivity but with word stemming.

A new text tool will simplify selection of words and phrases.  

David Hawkins is technical writing manager for graphics software maker Deneba Systems
Inc. of Miami.


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