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The Top 3 Free Online PDF Redaction Tools: Risks and Substitutes

free online pdf redaction tools

What is Redaction? Redacting is simply "the process of editing text for publication." However, we have come to know redacting as cutting out sensitive information. 

What is considered sensitive information? Names, credit card numbers, social securities…all data unique to a user.

A redactor removes all this data, often giving you a pdf with black bars blocking all this information. There are a wide variety of users: law offices, government offices, everyday users having to remove sensitive information before forwarding their files.  Join me as I go through the features, prices and security of free online redaction tools.

Top 3 Free Online pdf Redaction Tools

  1. PDF.Online

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Pdf.online is one of the top results for a free online redaction tool, and you can see why It’s simple enough to use: upload a document for Google Drive, Dropbox or your storage. 

The search bar allows you to find specific items you want to redact and search by pattern: Phone Numbers, Emails and Credit Cards. 

Though the interface seems sufficient, some holes put thorns in my experience: 

  • When selecting areas to redact, the Selection tool was not smooth. I often ended up frustrated as it did not scroll, misplaced my selections and did not provide an ability to adjust my selection.
  • Though seeming sufficient at first, the Pattern options are quite limited compared to fellow free online redaction tools.

The overall experience was botched and time-consuming. However, I enjoyed the abundant presence of quick PDF resources  such as tools for PDF conversion; the combine, edit and view options that allow you to work on your pdf and the ability to perform pdf splitting, merging, signing a pdf and pdf comparison. 

The tool is similar to Adobe Acrobat in its various options to work on your pdf document. 

Security:

Since most of the tools provided.online process your files entirely within your browser, your data is protected from their hands- for the most part. However, the lack of an absolute statement leaves a sense of uncertainty which is not what you want to feel when sharing sensitive information documents with a website. 

Pricing:

Though it is free, you are limited to only five actions per day. For just $9/ month, however, you get unlimited document processing and cross-platform capabilities and access to their Pro tools like document extraction, text-extraction and multi-window support for Windows users. At the same time, Pro features on Android and iOS include Smart Inking and Outline editing. 

My Opinion: The user interface and uncertainty of data security while using PDF. Online bars me from returning a second time. It is a fine go-to for a one-time document redaction on non-sensitive data but for recurring users; it has too many kinks in its armor that could eventually leak your data, not to mention the time spent navigating their interface, which is bound to raise frustration and perhaps a few phone tosses. 

  1. AvePDF

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The light and bright aesthetic of AvePdf was welcoming enough but was quickly met by frustration as it is not the most user-friendly website if working from an iPad. 

Similar to PDF.Online, you can upload files from your Google Drive, Dropbox or internal storage. They also offer to enter a link which can be handy at times. 

As I attempted to press the non-complying Google Drive button from my iPad, the interface proved to be a headache. I quickly moved to my phone and discovered an equally annoying interface when uploading in Android. Attempting multiple documents, the interface is barely successful in displaying the said pdf and inhibits anyone from being able to work on them.

So for the sake of comparison, I finally navigated the upload using a third device and a reserve of resilience.  However, met by a basic search-and-select that did not even supply a variety of pattern options to accelerate the redaction process, I was quickly disappointed.  My opinion for this tool could not be lower.

Security:

They claim 100% security due to the highest level of encryption technology. Though I want to believe it to be true, the lack of proof of why or how they can make these claims leaves me questioning their credibility and gives a sense of false over-promises to lure non-technologically-savvy users.

Pricing:

The tool is completely free but will cost you a chunk of time. 

My Opinion

The redaction process is heavily manual and only adds to the time wasted when combined with a series of incompetent interfaces. Thus AvePdf certainly is not the way to go for any user. Why it shows up as one of the top results is beyond me. 

  1. FreePDFRedactor

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FreePDFRedactor is perhaps the most straightforward redactor out there, but this is simply because it does not have much to offer. Like AvePDF, it is a simple select-and-search redactor, except unlike the former, it is somewhat smooth to operate. 

Security :

All communications with FreePDFRedactor’s servers are encrypted with SSL, and your document is automatically deleted from their server after every 30 mins session. 

Pricing:

The free version of this tool is limited to PDFs that are up to 5mbs or 20 pages and only provides a 30 mins section per visit. 

One can purchase a paid version through a LegalVerse account or corporate subscription to remove limits on PDF sizes. However, the tone of leaving the ball in the user’s court is discouraging and questions why one should chase their support staff for basic pricing information. 

My Opinion

Though I was pleased to be met with an interface that ran smoothly, it does not compensate for the lack of tools FreePDFRedactor offers. Not even a simple pattern search bars me from taking this tool seriously and should be reserved for school projects and other non-consequential edits and redactions.

The lack of pricing information or clear structure inhibits one from proceeding to purchase a fitting plan that would exceed the 20-page pdf limit.  More serious users need a tool with greater capabilities. 

The Risks of Using A Free Online PDF Redaction Tool

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People say that using online tools is a kind of roll of the dice as far as security is concerned. This has become apparent with the ambiguity on security of every free online pdf redaction tool offered. 

As far as data-security for your most sensitive information is concerned, there should NEVER be a reason for doubt. 

That is why I implore you to treat the next two software - Adobe Acrobat and  Redactable - with more hope to trust with your redaction needs. 

Use software you purchase and belong to YOU. 

Using a free online pdf redaction tool is like using someone else's kitchen and expecting them not to know what you cooked- even if they shield their eyes.  When it comes to the matter of your most sensitive data, there should be no possibility for theft. 

In an age when data is currency, and the term data theft is being discussed daily, using an online website for your personal information or downloading virus-inducing software to your computer can be devastating. A simple doctor's report can contain your name, address and phone number. So before you wonder why you're getting targeted ads for that particular rash cream, ask yourself if your data was protected to begin with.

You WANT trusted software that has a reputation sustained by a client list and real people you can reach out to.

So without further delay, let’s compare Adobe Acrobat and Redactable

Adobe Acrobat

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This article acknowledges and will not shy away from the most obvious competitor: Adobe Acrobat. True, it would make sense to pluck the fruit from the tree; however, not in this case.

The obvious question is Why not just use the redaction tool from Adobe Acrobat’s tools menu?

First of all, the redact tool is only available in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, which costs $24.99/ month. Adobe no longer provides the tool for its Standard DC package.

It is a little discouraging to have to pay an additional cost to be able to redact your document if you have already purchased an Adobe Acrobat package, however, the main reason for my criticism is that it does NOT provide any new feature that makes Redaction easier and quicker.  

It provides selections and patterns for the type of data you need to be redacted, but what separates Adobe Acrobat from a run-of-the-mill redaction tool? What has Adobe presented that makes our lives easier? Nada

Security

Our trust with Adobe leaves no doubt as far as security is concerned. Nevertheless, rest assured with their 256-bit AES encryption algorithm for Acrobat X and Later your data is secure. 

Pricing

Only available in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC costing $24.99/ month.

My Opinion

Adobe would have been my obvious go-to as they have developed trust with their pedigree of products over the years, however, Redactable’s capabilities proved Acrobat to be lackluster as far as redaction is concerned. Allow me to explain why…

Redactable 

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Redactable is a cloud-based redaction software, developed by Amanda Levay and our team, that uses A.I. to find and redact your documents permanently, giving you a fully secure & accurately redacted version with no allowance for your sensitive information to spill. 

Why Redactable? 

Ease and security. It's really that simple.

There are no other factors that somebody should consider for a redaction tool.

The peace of mind of having your redacted document free from sensitive information and having a capable tool that delivers this document with transparency on the process and track-record of our business hopefully provides a sense of trust and accountability.

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Have this in your tool belt. I am confident It will be as handy as spell check. Why? Because we deliver with as much ease. In a few minutes, redact several pages of documents 100% accurately.

Think of how it can ease the workload for legal teams, small businesses and government offices, and save not only human resources but time & money as well. 

Forget Redaction; Redactable is shaping into a good investment option as well.

Suffice it to say,  if spellcheck had stocks several years ago, I would have been a much richer man today… and with my jet skis and mansions, I would STILL keep Redactable as my redaction tool for pdfs - it's that good.  

So what exactly set's Redactable apart? 

Five features set Redactable apart:

  1. The Interface.
  2. Collaboration.
  3. The Wizard and Auto-Redaction.
  4. Permeance.
  5. Trust.
  1. The Interface

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The interface is clean and extremely easy to use, providing a toolbar to the left and your redaction criteria and selections to the right; Redactable provides a practical workspace to focus on your pdf document and redact it completely. 

The handy draw tool allows you to select areas in your document to censor out; the pattern tool provides you with your options of selecting information to redact, including names, emails, and a full SSNs; and the redaction history displays your past redactions with your original document to come back to whenever you need. 

It is a straightforward application to use, everything you need is provided in one space; creating an exceptionally smooth and easy experience. 

  1. Collaboration

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What? You read that right! 

Work on projects with your team so you don't have to play hot potato with your pdf document.

Invite everyone involved with the project and hash out your redactions in minutes. The Google Docs of Redaction? Yeah, we're all thinking the same.

Now the introduction of Collaboration changes the dynamic of Redaction a little, so here's a list of the New features that come with this addition:

  • Work on projects with your colleagues: add as many seats as you purchase with your plan.
  • Annotate redaction with the user who performed it and when. Save time on unnecessary back-and-forths with your colleagues and work on projects efficiently. 

Save countless hours by having all your colleagues working on the same project with easy edits and accessibility. 

Hash-out those team projects in record-time and use your time and resources where they can be better spent; we’ll handle the redaction part for you!

  1. The Wizard and Auto-Redaction!

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Redactable's Wizard introduces Auto-Redaction! Hit the auto-redact, and remove, backed by A.I., all sensitive information present in a document.

Redactable employs their A.I. to successfully identify and censor all your sensitive data at the click of a button- or wave of a wand- whichever you prefer. 

Redactable will be an accurate auto-redact tool for most people. However, Redactable still allows you to redact manually or based on a pattern of information. This leaves the field open for all types of users based on need.

Redactable users average two-and-a-half minutes to redact a 10-page document. Two-and-a-half minutes

The resources and time that will be saved by small businesses, law and government offices and everyday individuals is exciting!

What might have been a headache for a 10-man legal team can now be handled by a novice intern in minutes. 

  1. Permeance

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Permeance is a concept we champion quite proudly!

Why? Because Redactable DOES not simply mask your sensitive content with a black bar - - which can easily be removed by mediocre hackers; Redactable PERMANENTLY redacts documents by removing that data altogether!

What does that mean? Well, say you wanted to hide your Halloween candy because you’re never too old for Reese’s peanut butter cups. Well, putting a cloth over your candy won’t do much good, would it?

That is what most other redaction tools do. Not Redactable, Redactable COMPLETELY removes your sensitive data from the pdf. Your candy can’t be stolen if it is not under the cloth in the first place! 

So be assured your sensitive data is safe, and out of the hands of hackers and data scrapers. 

  1. Trust

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With a trusted clientele-list rest assured, your data remains safe and protected. 

Pricing

  • Redactable offers its Pro Pack for $49.99/month/seat, giving you unlimited redactions on unlimited documents. 
  • The Enterprise package is provided for companies that want the software deployed on their cloud. 

The Out-take

A simple process like Redaction has become one of the sources of data theft. Using free online redaction tools, though quick and easy, can cost you in the long run and put your data at risk. 

In an age where Data is currency, a trusted Redaction tool such as Redactable is necessary to protect us from data-scrapers and hackers. 

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Redactable offers complete protection on the back-end and a minimum effort redaction process at the front. It is the most complete redact tool out there and has made Adobe's own redact tool seem limited and lackluster. 

If I had to boil it down, Adobe Acrobat is like Amazon, and Redactable is AmazonPrime with 2-hour delivery; an added layer of luxury. 

Redactable is the modern, intelligent paper-shredder. Instead of bringing your sensitive or unnecessary documents to the shredder, this tool lets you relax as it finds and discards all that information for you. Sit back, relax and let Redactable’s Redaction Wizard wave its wand and ease the redaction process for you! 

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