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Guide: Redact documents in Microsoft Flow

We’ve been having lots of conversations recently with customers, community members and Microsoft about providing secure access to information and documents contained within Office 365 and how to secure documents at REST where there is a requirement to distribute outside of an organisation’s Office 365 tenant.

There are already well-documented features within the Microsoft Office client applications which enable sections / resources to be protected, however what happens where you simply want to redact the content, and what happens where you want to redact the content across multiple different file formats including Microsoft Office File Formats

Redacting documents with Microsoft Flow

Encodian have recently released the ‘Redact PDF‘ Flow action, which well… redacts content in PDF documents! But hang on… this only works for PDF documents? Yes, that is 100% correct and with good reason. Our research showed that in 99.99% of use cases where redaction was required, it also required the document to be shared in a consistent, secure and immutable format (PDF), regardless of source file format.

By combining Microsoft Flow’s native or Encodian’s advanced PDF conversion actions, we’re able to provide document redaction for 70+ different file formats, allowing redaction rules to be easily applied to documents

Example Usage: Redact document content within matching tags

The ‘Redact PDF‘ action allows a user to specify one or more rules, that locate content based on a free text search or a regex query. For example, you could specify to redact ‘Please redact me‘ where all instances of that text found within the document would be redacted. You could also utilise a regex for complex queries to find matching content before redacting.

The following steps outline how to setup a new Flow which locates sections within a document based on start and end tags using a regex query.

1. Create a new Flow from a blank template

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2. Enter a name for the flow, select the ‘When a file is created or modified (properties only)‘ trigger action, click ‘Create

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3. Update the SharePoint trigger actions with the selected site, library and folder location

3a: Site Address: <SharePoint Web Url>

3b: Library Name: <Library Name>

3c: Folder: (Optional) <Folder Name

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4. Add a ‘Condition‘ action to check whether the updated document has been approved.

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5. To check whether a document has been approved a choice field has been added to the SharePoint document library, we simply need to check whether the ‘Status‘ fields value is equal to ‘Approved‘, of course you can apply your own logic here as needed. Set the condition action as follows:

5a. Set the condition value to the ‘Status Value‘ from the SharePoint trigger action

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5b. Set the operator to ‘is equal to

5c. Set the equation value to ‘Approved

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6. Within the ‘If yes‘ branch, add a SharePoint ‘Get File Contents‘ action

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6a. Site Address: As per the value to set in step 3a

6b. File Identifier: Select the ‘Identifier‘ value from the SharePoint trigger action

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7. Next add a Encodian ‘Convert to PDF‘ action

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7a. Filename: Select the ‘File name with extension‘ field from the SharePoint trigger action

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7b. File Content: Select the ‘File Content‘ field from the ‘Get File Content‘ action

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7c. PDF Filename: Select the ‘ File name with extension ‘ field from the SharePoint trigger action

Note: The Encodian connector will automatically change the file extension to PDF.

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8. Next add a Encodian ‘Redact PDF‘ action

8a. Filename: Select the ‘Filename‘ value from the ‘Convert to PDF‘ action

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8b. File Content: Select the ‘File Content‘ value from the ‘Convert to PDF‘ action

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8c. Redactions Expression – 1: Add the following regex expression ‘ SSS\\[(?s)(.*?)\\]FFF 

This expression will locate all text which appears between the text starting ‘SSS‘ and finishing ‘FFF‘, noting that any regular expression can be used. We recommend using the https://regexr.com/ site for expression creation and testing.

8d. Redactions Redaction Colour – 1: Add your chosen redaction HTML colour code

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9. Next add a SharePoint ‘Create file‘ action

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9a. Site Address: As per the value to set in step 3a

9b. Folder Path: Enter the chosen destination library / folder

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9c. File Name: Select the ‘Filename‘ value from the ‘Redact PDF‘ action

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9d. File Content: Select the ‘File Content‘ value from the ‘Redact PDF‘ action

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10. The flow is now complete and ready for testing, your completed Flow should look similar to:

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11. Click ‘Test‘, click ‘I’ll perform the trigger action‘, click ‘Save & Test

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12. Update the target SharePoint file and set the required value to assure the document will be processed according to the business logic you have configured. In this example, I will update the ‘Status‘ field to equal ‘Approved‘ to trigger the flow.

13. Your new Flow should successfully execute

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The resulting document should have been redacted according to the configuration supplied.

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Thanks for reading!

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  • Working daily with Microsoft Cloud to deliver the needs of my company, my customers and various Microsoft communities and forums. | Office 365 | Flow | PowerShell | PowerApps | SharePoint |
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  • Microsoft Business Apps MVP. Owner of ThriveFast, an Office 365 consulting company.
  • 7x Microsoft Business Solutions MVP (CRM)
  • I'm keen in MS technologies, SharePoint, Office 365 and development for them
  • Daniel is a Business Productivity Consultant & Microsoft Business Solutions MVP who is very enthusiastic about all things Office 365, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, Azure & SharePoint (Online). Since the preview, Daniel has been working with Microsoft Flow and later on with Microsoft PowerApps. That led to him being awarded an MVP Award for Business Solutions. He loves to blog, present and evangelize about improving productivity in the modern workspace with these amazing tools!
  • Michelle is an Office 365 solution architect in Twin Cities, MN. She has been delivering business collaboration solutions for years with her focus on SharePoint and Office 365. Michelle is a recent board member of the Minnesota Office 365 User Group and has been a member of the SharePoint community since 2009. She is a frequent speaker at MNSPUG and SharePoint Saturday and co-chaired the Legal SharePoint User Group for 4 years. Her most frequent projects have involved rolling out a large deployment of Office 365, SharePoint Online intranet, build of a "CHAMPS" Office 365 user adoption program and most recently, SharePoint On-Premise to Online Migration. Michelle is very excited about cloud technology as it is shifting her IT Pro focus to collaboration strategy and technical adoption.
  • I'm a Microsoft Office Servers and Services MVP with a special interest in SharePoint, Office 365, Microsoft Flow, Microsoft Teams and PowerApps. I work at Triad Group Plc ( https://triad.co.uk)
  • Passionate #Programmer #SharePoint #SPFx #Office365 #MSFlow | C-sharpCorner MVP | SharePoint StackOverflow, Github, PnP contributor