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How to Redact in Excel: The Best Redaction Tool for Excel


Redaction is the process of obscuring or removing sensitive information from a document. This is often done to protect privacy, confidentiality, or security. Typically, Redaction involves blacking out or permanently covering specific text, images, or data to prevent it from being viewed or accessed by unauthorized individuals. 

This is frequently done for legal or government papers when specific elements of records must be distributed to someone who needs some of the information but may not have the required clearance or authority to view everything. 

Excel redaction, in particular, is the process of removing sensitive information from spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel. As a digital document, redacting a spreadsheet can be more complex than paper documents. This is because digital documents often contain hidden metadata that also needs to be removed. 

Spreadsheet redaction is typically required to share data with external parties. For example, in a legal case, a law firm may need to share a spreadsheet containing financial records as evidence. However, certain details, such as the names of individuals or specific financial amounts, may need to be redacted to comply with privacy laws or protect sensitive information.

It’s a commonly used practice among government institutions, particularly those working with confidential material and legal papers, that must shield specific information while revealing other data in the same file. 

The Features You Need For Redacting in Excel 

Various programs are available to help with Excel document redaction. The most effective ones offer the following functions:

Auto-redaction capability

Save time by using a redaction tool that uses AI to automatically find and redact all sensitive information, even in documents consisting of hundreds or thousands of pages. 

Components for monitoring and quality assurance

Whether your content is redacted manually or automatically, assessors must be able to readily re-check revisions for quality control. Redactable is one redaction solution that provides audit trials and certificates for redacted documents, ensuring transparency and security in the redaction process. 

Comprehensive redaction

As Excel spreadsheets are a complex format, with data stored in different locations throughout the document and hidden in metadata, legacy redaction tools just can’t cope. The best redaction tools for Excel redaction have the ability to safely identify sensitive information anywhere in the document. 

Multiple redaction levels

The flexibility to easily produce different copies with varying levels of redaction is crucial for accommodating the needs of different parties who require access to the information while safeguarding sensitive details. 

What Information Should Be Redacted in Excel Documents?

Excel documents can contain a variety of information that may need to be redacted. These include: 

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Driver’s License Numbers
  • Bank Account Numbers
  • Credit Card Information
  • Confidential Contact Information
  • Trade Secrets
  • Private health information

In particular, it’s important to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) in order to prevent identity theft and remain compliant with regulations. 

Common Challenges with Excel Redaction

Many redaction tools are not capable of directly redacting Excel spreadsheets, which is the source of many of the common challenges people have with Excel redaction. In order to manually redact documents, some tools first convert them to images. These can then be printed, marked with a black marker, and scanned back into a PDF. 

The problem with this approach is that Excel spreadsheets can be hundreds or even thousands of pages long. Converting them to digital images and then putting them through the manual redaction process will take a long time. The resultant PDF file size will be substantial, making it difficult to share or distribute. Furthermore, the spreadsheet will be unusable and may lose formulas and secret cells. 

The ideal method is to keep the document in its raw Excel format; however, this requires using tools that allow a reviewer to black out sensitive material without otherwise altering the document. 

How to Redact Spreadsheets in Excel?

One of the most unpleasant aspects of a reporting activity is controlling the information disclosed inside spreadsheets, which can require even sizable legal departments to engage in labor-intensive and costly manual tasks.

This is the traditional manual method for hiding some cells in an Excel worksheet:

1. After carefully editing the spreadsheet to remove the confidential information, copy it. Make sure to erase data rather than merely hide it.

2. Select one or more cells.

3. To delete the cell's contents, press Delete.

4. To get the redacted effect, change the cell theme to black. Separately, select the desired cells, go to Home > Cells > Format > Format Cells > Fill, and select Black.

To get the redacted effect, change the cell theme to black. Separately, select the desired cells, go to Home>Cells>Format>Format Cells>Fill, and select Black.

5. Next, go to Home > Styles > Cell Styles > New Cell Style to change the style.

Any cells from which you have deleted material should be given a new style.

Any cells from which you have deleted material should be given a new style.

6. Ensure that any stray cell content is identified. Right-click on your selected cell style and select Modify.

7. Make sure the Style is set to a bright color on the Font tab.

8. Take a screenshot of the worksheet page and crop it.

9. Copy the worksheet into a Word document and use the Word Redaction tool.

10. Save the redacted file as a PDF

While this process may be suitable for smaller Excel spreadsheets, it is highly impractical for long documents with large amounts of data. 

So, what can you do if you need to redact more than a single spreadsheet page?

The Best Excel Redaction Tool

Redactable is the smart alternative to manual redaction that makes it easy to keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands. 

Redactable is a web-based, AI-powered platform that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) technology to identify every occurrence of sensitive data in documents and redact it entirely. Thanks to its 100% data elimination and rapid redaction capabilities, Redactable is the industry leader in automated redaction software.

Redactable also lets you interact and collaborate with colleagues on large-scale redaction tasks using its cloud-based technology.

You can easily upload and export your documents and two-way sync to third-party applications like Box or Dropbox.

You can also access automatically generated redaction records to track progress and ensure compliance.

Additional Redactable Advantages:

  • Machine learning algorithms find sensitive information quickly and remove it automatically.
  • Automatic removal of hidden metadata.
  • Find and redact your phrases or keywords instantly in bulk.
  • Audit trails and Redaction Certifications come with every redacted document.

Why Choose Redactable?

Redactable is the ultimate solution for sensitive document management and the premier choice for organizations dealing with sensitive information in various document formats, including Excel, Word, PDF, and other electronic files. With its comprehensive suite of automatic redaction tools, Redactable simplifies the process of managing large, complex documents while ensuring compliance with disclosure and litigation laws.

Redactable was developed to assist attorneys in better controlling this workflow, lowering costs, and enforcing adherence to disclosure and litigation laws that encourage the sharing of documents in their native format.

Redactable’s Key Features and Benefits:

  • Efficient Redaction Workflow
    • Redact words, phrases, and statistics using the intuitive "Browse and Redact" principle
    • Instantly identify and redact sensitive information such as social security numbers and dates of birth
    • Work with spreadsheet documents in a near-native representation, eliminating the need for costly photo or print production
  • Versatile Redaction Options
    • Apply redactions effortlessly with the "Click to Redact" button
    • Choose from text-based, white-based, and black-based redactions to suit your needs
  • Enhanced Document Security
    • Automatically detect and remove hidden information, such as concealed rows, ensuring complete confidentiality
    • Inspect and remove embedded items and comments, maintaining document integrity
  • Secure Communications and File Sharing
    • Take advantage of Redactable's encrypted communication and file-sharing options for added security
    • Benefit from the email redaction system, which automatically searches for and redacts relevant material before sending

Developed specifically to assist attorneys in streamlining their redaction workflow, Redactable helps lower costs and enforce adherence to disclosure and litigation laws. By choosing Redactable, organizations can easily manage sensitive documents, protect confidential information, and maintain compliance.

To check out the system, try Redactable for free.

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