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How to redact PDFs on Mac: best options

5 min read

PDF is the most popular format for sending documents around, and you likely get PDFs sent your way all the time. Everyone likes PDFs for one exact reason — they don’t change the form or content of the messages they carry. 

Most of the time, having PDF content stay intact is what you want. But sometimes PDFs contain sensitive information, errors, outdated facts, or just extra content that’s no longer needed. In cases like these, you’d want to use some sort of a PDF redact tool and get rid of the superfluous information.


So do you know how to redact a PDF quickly in a way that keeps all the deleted information inaccessible for everyone? If not, let’s explore all the best options together.

How to redact PDFs without Adobe Acrobat Pro

When someone needs a redact PDF tool, they instinctively think about Adobe Acrobat Pro, since Adobe invented the PDF format, and Acrobat has had a large share of the market for decades. 

Even though Acrobat Pro is a capable redact tool PDFs can understand, it’s quite heavy and taxing on your system, and requires a costly monthly subscription. So what’s a better redact tool in PDF out there?

How to redact a PDF in Preview

Preview is one of the most used default Mac apps for viewing images. However, Preview also contains just enough functionality to redact PDFs as well. 

Starting macOS 11 (Big Sur), the app has featured a dedicated PDF redact tool you can easily use: 

  1. Open your PDF document in Preview
  2. Go to Tools ➙ Redact
  3. Click OK on the pop-up window
  4. Select the text you’d like to redact
  5. Save your document

Redacted content is permanently removed.

There’s also another way to do it, using a markup tools:

  1. Open your document in Preview
  2. Click on the markup icon in the toolbar
  3. Select the rectangle tool
  4. Place a new black rectangle over the text you’d like to redact
  5. Export the file as a new PDF (don’t just save)

reduct with black rectangle

To make sure that your PDF couldn’t be reverted back to its initial state and also has a smaller file size, it’s important to use a tool like PDF Squeezer.

PDF Squeezer is an essential utility that processes and compresses PDF files in seconds. This is especially useful when you’re uploading PDFs online or sending them over email. Lots of forms have PDF size restrictions, and there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to complete a form because your PDF is too big. 

To reduce the size of your PDF and make sure your redactions are saved: 

  1. Open PDF Squeezer
  2. Drag and drop your PDF file into it. Done!

To get the best results from redacting your PDF, however, you’ll need to use a more capable tool like Nitro PDF Pro.

Nitro PDF Pro is the best PDF-editing app on the market today. It lets you create and edit PDFs, merge files into a single document, convert PDFs into other formats. Turn PDFs into editable text, redact existing text, annotate, sign forms, set passwords, and much more. 

To use a PDF redact tool in Nitro PDF Pro: 

  1. Open your document in Nitro PDF Pro
  2. Select the portion of the text you’d like to redact
  3. Go to Format ➙ Redact Text – Block (paints a black rectangle on top) or Redact Text – Erase (erases selected text)
  4. Save your PDF and process it with PDF Squeezer

How to online redact PDFs with ease

In cases when you need to redact PDF online quickly and don’t have access to Preview or Nitro PDF Pro, you can find a suitable web-based solution as well. 

For example, AvePDF offers basic PDF-editing functionality online that you can use at any time. 

Here’s how to PDF redact online with AvePDF: 

  1. Go to avepdf.com
  2. Navigate to Protect ➙ Redact PDF
  3. Upload your PDF file
  4. Select some text and click “Add redaction marks”
  5. Click “Apply all redactions” when done
  6. Save

PDF redact online with AvePDF

How to redact with Adobe Acrobat

Most people think that to modify PDFs they have to pay for a recurring subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro. However, this is not the case. If you want to use Adobe software to redact PDFs, you can also do so with the free version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. 

Here’s how to redact PDFs with Acrobat Reader: 

  1. Download and launch Acrobat Reader on your Mac
  2. Open your PDF
  3. Create a slim black rectangle shape in any graphics app
  4. In Acrobat, go to Tools ➙ Fill & Sign
  5. Click “Sign yourself” and Add Signature
  6. Load the image of the black rectangle
  7. Place the rectangle on top of your text
  8. Save the PDF and process it with PDF Squeezer

redact PDFs with Acrobat Reader

As you can see, learning how to redact a PDF takes just a few minutes but can save you dozens of hours (and lots of money) in the future. You now know how to redact PDFs with Preview, Acrobat Reader, and even an online PDF redact tool. Our advice, however, is to get Nitro PDF Pro for all your PDF needs and use it together with PDF Squeezer to optimize every PDF to the max. 

Best of all, both PDF Squeezer and Nitro PDF Pro are available to you absolutely free for seven days through the trial of Setapp, a platform with more than 230 outstanding apps for Mac and iOS across a variety of categories, from distraction-free writing (Focused) to searching PDFs with AI (PDF Search). Try every Setapp app at no cost and save the ones you like the most.

Get 240+ Mac apps for any job

Sign up to Setapp and try them for free.