December 05, 2006

Acrobat 8 -- Know Thy Redaction

The new Acrobat 8 release is generating a good buzz in the legal market. Brett Burney has a glowing review of the new Adobe Acrobat 8 on He links to a Duff Johnson's PDF Perspective post on the differences between the redaction methods used by Appligent's Redax and Acrobat 8.

If you're serious about PDF redacting, Duff's post is a must-read. Via an interview with Mark Gavin, founder and CTO of Appligent (maker of the well-known Redax redaction add-in to Acrobat), Duff describes the essential differences one should know. Per his post, Acrobat 8 uses a "subtractive" approach to remove data from a redacted PDF.

While one would think this quite logical, read his post to understand the versioning and data cleansing challenges this may present to the user. Per Mr. Gavin, Redax uses an "additive" approach that creates a new PDF file from the original, but only populating it with the data the user chose not to redact. From that description, it sounds that Redax solves two problems inherent in the Acrobat 8 method: 1) not allowing the redacted information to be present in the new PDF file in the first place, and 2) helping to prevent the user from accidentally overwriting their original non-redacted PDF file with the redacted version.

Mr. Gavin's comment about Redax's approach (i.e., "the new document has never been touched by the information to be redacted"), struck me as the better practice if accurate. Someone else can't find or access the information if it has never been put into the PDF file in the first place. He also brings up an interesting point in how the two products differ in their display of redacted information to the user -- in terms of whether any text or graphics remaining in the redacted document can easily be seen by the end user working on it before they send it off. He contends that it's more apparent to the user with Redax.

Now in all fairness and transparency, I've only summarized that post and have not verified its accuracy. Adobe should certainly be given an opportunity to respond, and it's obvious the new Acrobat redaction features create competition between the two companies. Coopetition is a strange thing indeed.

I also credit Adobe, as I have challenged them on several occasions to provide a more reliable and suitable method to redact PDF's using only their Acrobat software. They listened and responded. My personal perception is that it's certainly a good step in the right direction, and Adobe is being sensitive to the issues as well as the legal market's needs.

Also, a heads-up on system requirements: One law firm IT Manager recently shared on a listserv that Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional requires Windows XP Service Pack 2 if you're running Windows XP or it won't install. I haven't verified this, but he provided a link to Acrobat Professional's System Requirements page so you can see for yourself.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard