Redacting text in WordPerfect

February 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm

The Redaction tool is a relatively new feature, introduced in version X4 (14) of WordPerfect. It enables you to black out confidential / sensitive / proprietary information before sharing a document with others. After redaction, the blacked-out text is effectively removed from the document (such that it cannot be viewed at all).

A Two-Step Process

There are two main steps to the redaction process:

1. going through the document and marking all of the confidential words and phrases for redaction (which imposes transparent gray highlighting); and

2. creating / saving a redacted copy of the document – in any of three file formats (WordPerfect, Word, or PDF) – during which WordPerfect turns the redaction marks into opaque black bars.

Marking Text for Redaction

You can mark text manually or instruct WordPerfect to search for and apply redaction marks to all instances of a specific word or phrase. To mark text manually, do any of the following:

1. Select some text, then click the Tools menu, Redaction, Mark for Redaction (you’ll need to repeat this step for each word or phrase you wish to redact); or

2. Click the Tools menu, Redaction, Mark for Redaction, and then drag the cursor — which takes on the appearance of a highlighter pen — across text you wish to redact (click Tools, Redaction, Mark for Redaction again to disable the highlighter); or

3. Click the Tools menu, Redaction, Find and Mark…, type a word or phrase to redact, and then do one of the following:

(a) to mark all instances of the word or phrase, click the “Mark All” button; or,

(b) to mark one instance of the word or phrase at a time, click the “Find Next” button to move to the next occurrence of that word or phrase, then click the “Mark” button (repeating as necessary until you’ve marked all instances of the word are phrase in the document).

Note that the “Find and Mark” dialog offers three options for refining your search: “Match whole words only,” “Case sensitive,” and “Search backwards in document.” The “Case sensitive” option could be particularly useful if, for example, you wish to redact a company name that also is an ordinary / everyday word (so that only instances of the company name, and not the ordinary word used elsewhere in a completely different context, end up being removed from the final document).

Although everyone will develop individual preferences about which of the three methods to use, be aware that any “automated” method can produce unintended — and undesirable — effects. If you use the Find and Mark dialog, go through the document carefully to be sure that the redaction marks have been applied to all of the text you meant to mark (and have not been applied to any text you didn’t mean to mark!) before creating a redacted version.

Likewise, if you mark text manually for redaction, it’s a good idea to review the document with care before proceeding to the next step. Sometimes it helps to have a second person — someone who is authorized to view the confidential information in the document — take a look, too.

Removing Redaction Marks

Should you need to remove individual redaction marks, you can delete either of the paired “Redact Mark” codes surrounding a particular word or phrase (turn on Reveal codes by pressing Alt F3 or clicking the View menu, Reveal Codes). Alternatively, you can remove all of the redaction marks by clicking the Tools menu, Redaction, Remove all Marks. [1]

Note that you won’t be able to remove the redaction marks after creating a redacted copy of the document (technically, the black marks that blot out the text aren’t considered redaction marks).

After you have marked the document for redaction, you can instruct WordPerfect to save a redacted copy.

Creating a Redacted Copy of the Document

To create a redacted copy, click the Tools menu, Redaction, Created Redacted Document, then click to specify one of the three available formats: WPD, DOC, or PDF. A dialog appears, warning you to confirm that all sensitive information has been removed — presumably, that means marked for redaction — before proceeding. This dialog gives you a chance to go back a step if you have forgotten to mark some of the information for redaction. Assuming you are ready to proceed, click “OK” to dismiss the dialog and continue with the redaction process.

If you have chosen to save the redacted document in Word format or as a PDF, WP will prompt you to save a copy (a dialog will open, and you’ll have to click “Save” in order to finish). In all cases, WP will create a redacted version of the document, adding an underscore and a number (_1, _2, etc.) between the file name and the document extension. If you are creating only one redacted copy of the document in native WordPerfect format (.wpd), the file name will be followed by _1.wpd. If you make another redacted copy in WordPerfect format, the file name will be followed by _2.wpd — and so on. By default, WordPerfect saves the redacted copy in the same folder as the original, but you can move it. [2]

The Redacted Copy

After redaction, the text that you marked is no longer visible. Solid black marks appear instead. If you turn on Reveal Codes, you will see only codes for a black rectangle symbol and word/letter spacing. The word/letter spacing codes in effect create multiple black rectangles to replace the individual characters that existed prior to redaction.

The original document remains intact (in fact, it usually remains open on another screen). Although that is a desirable result — you need at least one unexpurgated copy for your records — it obviously means that you need to exercise caution when sharing the document so that you don’t accidentally forward a version that hasn’t been redacted.

Redaction Versus “Save Without Metadata”

The Redaction tool can be very handy if you need to exchange documents with individuals who are not privy to certain confidential, sensitive, or proprietary information contained in the docs. Just remember two things: (1) that the feature isn’t available in versions of WordPerfect prior to X4; and (2) that redaction doesn’t eliminate “metadata” from your documents. If you’re concerned about metadata, consider using WP’s “Save Without Metadata” feature prior to creating a redacted version of your document. For more information, see my October, 2009 post about WP’s built-in metadata scrubber. (I wrote the post before WPX5 had been released, but the feature still exists — and works essentially the same way — in X5.)

_________________________________________________________________________________________
[1] CAUTION: Barry MacDonnell has identified a few potential problems that you might encounter if you use highlighting in a document you are marking for redaction. He has written a lengthy post about the issues, which is worth reading in its entirety. You can find the post on the WordPerfect Universe site, located here. Note that you can click the “printable version” link below the post (at the right side of the page) to create a somewhat more user-friendly version of the thread.

Because the problems appear to be limited to documents that contain both redaction marks and highlighting (particularly when redaction marks are inserted first), and because the discussion is somewhat involved — and I don’t think I can improve on MacDonnell’s post — I won’t go into details in this post.

Evidently, the issues still exist in WordPerfect X5 (and have not been addressed in the first patch, SP1).

[2] If you choose to create a redacted copy in Word or PDF, you can move and/or rename the redacted copy prior to saving it.

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