What’s the Best Way to Secure My Markups? – Locking vs. Flattening (2017 & Below)

Relevant Products

Bluebeam Revu

Revu lets you either lock or flatten markups to prevent them from being accidentally moved or edited, but how do you know which one to use, and why?

The answer lies in what you’re trying to achieve: are you trying to turn the markups into a permanent part of the document’s content that can never be edited? Or, do you simply want to keep the markups from being unintentionally modified or deleted?

To help you make the decision about which to use and when, let’s first go over the differences between the Lock and Flatten functions and their advantages.


The main benefit of a locked markup is flexibility: individual markups can be toggled between locked and unlocked states at any time.  The locked state can be activated by either right-clicking the markup and selecting Lock or via the Lock column in the Markups List.  While locked, a markup cannot be changed or deleted — though certain functions such as status changes, replies, exporting and copying are still available. Markups can be locked individually or in a group.

To learn more about how to lock your markups, please refer to Markups List (Revu Help).


Whenever markups are flattened, Revu merges them into the content layer of the PDF.  After this process, changing or modifying your markups is impossible, and they will no longer appear in the Markups list.

While you can right-click on an individual markup and flatten it, you can not unflatten individual markups.  The process of unflattening will affect all markups on a page.

To learn more about flattening and unflattening markups, please refer to Flattening Markups (Revu Help).

Processes That Prevent Unflattening Markups

Although enabling the Allow Markup Recovery option in the Flatten Markups dialog box allows you to unflatten markups, the functions listed below will alter the content and prevent flattened markups from being recovered.

  • Edit Text
  • Search and Replace
  • Erase Content
  • Cut Content
  • Repair Page Content
  • Reduce File Size
  • Apply Redactions
  • Color Processing

If you intend on using any of the above processes with your document, it’s recommended that you unflatten your markups before doing so.  This will ensure that you still have editing capabilities over them afterwards.

Flattened Form Fields cannot be unflattened under any circumstances.


Based on the advantages and differences between the Lock and Flatten features, we recommend considering the following points when choosing a workflow for managing your markups.

  1. Lock the markups if your document is a work in progress.  Locked Markups can still be exported and copied.  You can also still make changes to them such as replying or changing their status.  Continually flattening and unflattening markups is more time-consuming and risky.
  2. Always bear in mind that there are certain processes and functions which will prevent markup recovery when flattening a document. Refer back to Processes That Prevent Unflattening Markups for more information.
  3. When you’re ready to flatten your markups, save a copy of your PDF and flatten that copy. This way you’ll always have the original unflattened version in case you need to go back to it.
  4. As a general rule, if you want to prevent third parties from deleting or modifying your markups, flatten them right before you send out the document, and make sure the Allow Markup Recovery option is disabled in the Flatten  menu. See Flattening Markups (Revu Help) for more information.
    If you’d like even more security as well as an audit trail, you can upload the file to a Bluebeam Studio Session. This also prevents other users from unflattening the file.
  5. Flattening ensures markups and annotations will display in PDF viewers and mobile apps that only display PDF content and otherwise fail to display the included markups and annotations.
  6. If your markups contain Actions that you want to work in Revu iPad or Vu iPad, you’ll need to flatten them before transferring them to the device. You can learn more about how to flatten your markups in Defining an Action (Revu Help).



Related Articles