LR Tips How to Permanently Delete Cropped Data in a PDF


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Sep 27, 2006
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David Blatner


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Have you ever tried to crop a PDF file, cutting out part of a page? The frustrating truth is that Acrobat can crop a PDF, but the stuff outside the cropped area doesn’t truly go away. It is just masked, or hidden. Actually, technically, cropping a PDF in Acrobat just changes its “trim” or “crop” rectangle — the original art is all still there.
For example, say you have a PDF with a bunch of private, sensitive information. You use Acrobat’s Crop feature to crop it down to just the public data you want visible. But that original data is still there, easily seen with a couple of clicks!
Or, you could take that PDF and place it in InDesign, and crop it there so that you cannot see the private data. Then export your InDesign document as a PDF. Guess what? The private data is still there. You can’t see it, but if you export the file in some other format, or use Acrobat’s content analysis features, it’s easy to find!
So what’s to be done? Here are two methods you can use to truly delete data that is outside the visible PDF.
[h=3]Remove Hidden Information[/h]In case you don’t remember (or don’t know) how to crop a PDF in Acrobat Pro, it’s pretty darn easy:
1. Choose the Crop tool and drag out a cropping rectangle:

2. Double-click inside the cropping rectangle to open the Cropping dialog box:

3. Click OK.

But as I said, the stuff out in the periphery is still there. (If you open that dialog box again, you’ll see it out there. Or, if you place it in InDesign and use the Show Import Options dialog box, you can see it there, too.
So here’s the trick: Open the Protection tools and click Remove Hidden Information. Acrobat will process the data and provide you with a set of “hidden” information in the Results pane on the left. Then click the Remove button:

When it’s done processing, all that cropped data is gone! Not just text… even if you had image data out there, it gets cropped out.
[h=3]Flatten Transparency[/h]Here’s another way to crop a PDF, using InDesign instead of Acrobat.
First, place the PDF on a page in InDesign, and crop the graphic frame down to view just the shape you want. (It doesn’t even have to be a rectangle.) Next, apply any sort of transparency to the PDF. For example, you could set it to 99.9% opacity. Finally, export the page as a flattened PDF — that means Acrobat 4 compatibility, such as you get when you choose the PDF/X-1a preset.
The trick here is that when the PDF gets flattened as part of the export process, InDesign leaves out all the stuff outside the cropping area!
(Of course, the annoying part is that the PDF gets flattened, which means any other transparency on the page or in the PDF is no longer around. That shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s frustrating for those of us who like to keep transparency effects unflattened.)
It sure would be helpful if Adobe Acrobat simply had a “really truly crop everything out” feature. But in the meantime, keep these solutions in mind!



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