Using software tools to redact text from electronic case documents is obviously more efficient than printing out pages, striking out sensitive text with a black marker and scanning the altered documents back into your system. However, improperly redacting an electronic document can have disastrous consequences with the unplanned disclosure of information, such as in Hepting v. AT&T Corp. (C-06-072-VRW) or Facebook, Inc. v. ConnectU (LLC C-07-01389-JW).
That’s why using the proper tools for electronic redaction is imperative. For those that do only occasional redaction, software such as Nuance -PaperPort can redact text or areas of a page selected by hand, while Adobe Acrobat can hand-select the text or areas for redaction as well as do simple searches for specified text. But if you regularly do recurring or large-scale redaction projects, you should turn to software specifically designed for this purpose. Capabilities to look for in dedicated redaction software include:
▪ The ability to work with multiple file formats such as Word, WordPerfect, Excel, PDF, TIFF, image files and CAD drawings
▪ Text-based searching for specific words or word strings to be marked for redaction
▪ Text-pattern recognition of predefined text to be redacted, such as personal addresses and credit card numbers
▪ The ability to create nonstandard pattern searches
▪ Zone-based redaction to designate specified areas that are consistent from document to document
▪ The ability to add items such as Bates numbers, watermarks and security restrictions
Redact-It (www.redact-it.com), from Informative Graphics Corporation, includes all of these features and more. Redact-It comes in desktop and server versions. I tested th e desktop version.
As with many of today’s software products, purchasers download Redact-It from the vendor’s Web site and receive a license file used to activate the software upon installation. In the installation window, you’ll find a Quick Start Guide and the User’s Guide. The Quick Start Guide provides clear and concise installation instructions and is worth viewing before installing the program. The User’s Guide covers program-specific terms, toolbar functions, and how to use the program’s features. While I give the guides generally high marks, the sections on working with customized search strings and pattern recognition could use further expansion.
The installation process is straightforward. Once you start it, Redact-It presents the option to install macros in Microsoft Office so you can send open Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other files directly to Redact-It from the respective MS Office program. Redact-It will then be added to the toolbars in your Office programs when the installation is completed.
The installation process also installs IGC’s Net-It Now program, which allows you to create Content Sealed Format (CSF) files, “with embedded Visual Rights security protection, directly from your Office applications.” In other words, once you’ve created a redacted document, you can add security controls to it to prevent tampering.
Using the Program
When working in Redact-It, the program’s main screen has an uncluttered, minimalist appearance, which facilitates getting to the main thing this program is designed for—the creation of redacted files in PDF or TIFF format for output. The Redact-It toolbar appears on the left of the workspace, providing easy access to all redaction tools. You can send Office files to Redact-It via the macros previously mentioned, or you can open documents directly from Redact-It and work with the following file types: PDF, TIFF, CSF (with no Visual Rights set), XPS (Microsoft’s competing format to PDF) and all the usual MS Office formats.
A key strength of Redact-It is that it leaves the original source file untouched when you use it. Here’s how: Instead of making any changes on the original, your redactions (called Redactups in Redact-It) are actually saved in an XML file that is overlaid on the original document. These redactions are only made permanent when they are finalized and saved in a new PDF or TIFF document. In contrast, programs such as PaperPort or Acrobat make your redactions on the actual source document, and once finalized, there is no way to undo them. Even when working with a PDF file in Redact-It, redactions are saved to a new file—which by default is designated by adding a “-r” at the end of the file name, but can be changed in the Settings menu.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about metadata inadvertently being left in the final document because Redact-It does not transfer metadata to the output file.
Redact-It provides a number of scripts (macros) for redacting a large number of phrases and words at once, including popular or general variations such as driver’s license numbers, street addresses, account numbers and the like. You can also create your own scripts and save them for reuse. Before finalizing the file, you use the program’s Verify panel to ensure that all sensitive information is properly covered and no content was redacted erroneously. There are also tools for removing privacy information such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth and more. In addition, Redact-It provides a number of document stamps and lets you add banners, watermarks and Bates numbering as well.
At $195, Redact-It Desktop can be seen as too expensive for occasional use, especially if you already have PaperPort or Acrobat installed. However, if you do recurring or large batches of redactions, Redact-It is quite reasonably priced for a tool that gives you a nice easy-to-use feature set and peace of mind when redacting.
Scorecard With a maximum possible score of 20, here is how I rate it:
Ease of Use: 4
Quality of Materials: 4
Feature Set: 4
Value for Cost: 5
Total Score: 17