blocking out some words in pdf
April 6, 2020 10:35 AM   Subscribe

And I thought it would just open in paint, silly me. Having lost *both* of my jobs due to the cv...

...I'm trying to get a head start on some state services like utilities assistance and food. One of the (numerous) documents I need to send in is a .pdf tax return, via email (or maybe upload it somewhere -- she wasn't quite sure and I need to clarify). Can someone please refer me to a legitimate free program to scribble/block out my social. (I am always worried I'll pick out the one program that is malware.) I don't have full Acrobat on my computer and it costs money to add (of course). (I tried blocking it out with just what I have, and it sends me to a buy page).

Thanks and stay well.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So much of that kind of software is malware, and I wouldn't want to trust it anyway, because sometimes the blockouts can just be removed. Can you print the document, edit it with a sharpie, and scan it? You will absolutely have a clean pdf without your information that way.
posted by fritley at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You ought to be able to open it up and edit it in GIMP - which is an open source Photoshop clone. Probably more tool than you need for the job but it isn't malware and it can export to PDF for you.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:47 AM on April 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

What are you using to read your PDF? You may have the means to block this out already in Adobe itself.

If you can highlight something on your PDF and save it with the highlighting, then you can do it that way -

1. Highlight your social.
2. Right-click on the highlighted bit and a menu should pop up where you can select the properties of the highlighting.
3. One of those options should be the color you're using to highlight it. Black is one of those colors.
4. If necessary, you can also control the opacity of the highlighting so that it's opaque.

Again, that only works if the program you're using allows you to highlight the PDF. But you might indeeed have that ability. Give it a try.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on April 6, 2020

Best answer: Be aware that the in-PDF redaction does leave the text in the file. If you want it completely obliterated, you have to save the redacted PDF to an image (windows instructions with GIMP). You can send either the resulting image file wherever you need it to go, or click "Print" then "Print to File," which will give you PDF output options if you want/need to send as an actual PDF.
posted by rhizome at 10:57 AM on April 6, 2020 [10 favorites]

Another technique is to save the PDF as a postscript file, and then search the postscript file for occurrences of your SSN (with and without the dashes) and replace them XXX (one X per number). The postscript file can be edited in any old text editor. Then open the postscript file in your PDF viewer and save it out as a PDF. This does not work in all PDFs, but it works in some, and will obviously depend on your having a tool that can save PDF as postscript and then open postscript files. (On MacOS you can do that with
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: fritley-No printer, no scanner. Yes, it's true. (It took me years just to get a new computer--and now I'm dinking around with the router/modem which is promised to show up in the mail soon.)
No printer in sight--the last one I got didn't talk to my laptop, no matter what I tried.
I finally gave it away in disgust.
That's too much aggravation for me, especially now.
Empress-And I tried highlighting it to block it, to no dice.
any/rhizome-So now I wil try GIMP. Thanks all.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2020

Best answer: A *really* quick and dirty way that doesn't require additional software: Screenshot each page and paste into Word/Pages. Edit the images with your social on it in MS Paint or other image editor as an interim step. Re:PDF (Microsoft Word and Pages can do that) and send. Not pretty - but likely no additional software required (though you may have to check that the screenshots are still easily legible etc.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:19 AM on April 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

Possibly – see this, from this.

Author says "No upload of the document ever occurs, it is all done client side in your browser. Try loading the website, turning off wifi, and then uploading the document. The document never touches the server. Hope that makes sense."

Keep in mind I have no personal experience with this site.
posted by WCityMike at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Author says "No upload of the document ever occurs, it is all done client side in your browser. Try loading the website, turning off wifi, and then uploading the document. The document never touches the server. Hope that makes sense."

Just because it works while offline doesn't mean it doesn't also send a copy to a server if you're connected to the internet. Even if someone reviewed the code it could have been clean at the time but silently changed to malware afterward.

I second the advice to open the PDF in an image editor, save it as an image, then print that image back to a PDF. The resulting PDF will probably be larger than the original, and the recipient will probably curse their inability to copy text out of it, but that's their problem.
posted by jedicus at 2:39 PM on April 6, 2020

LibreOffice Draw can edit PDFs and export back to PDF.

I've found it to work well for most documents.

It's open source and does not contain malware.
posted by dweingart at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

GIMP is a good idea. I will convert a text PDF to an image, just that you are aware of that. Depending on the circumstance, the final file may be much bigger.

Master PDF Editor is great:

Also runs under Linux. The free version is supposed to make a watermark but somehow my version never puts any watermark.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:25 AM on April 7, 2020

PDF-XChange has a free version. If you save an edited file it will put BUY ME badges on every page. But you can get around that by printing to pdf.
posted by Talia Devane at 11:24 AM on April 9, 2020

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