I’m often asked how to create an interactive PDF with InDesign with internal links so that you can, for example, click on a chapter title in the contents page and immediately get the PDF to jump to that page.
How to create an interactive PDF with internal links video
So I’ve made a video to show how to create hyperlink destinations within the InDesign document and then create buttons to go to them when clicked.
Interactive PDF example
To see an example of an interactive PDF then you can download my free e-book How to Market Yourself Online or, if you’re feeling rich, you can download the premium version How To Get Clients which is featured in the video.
Usual characteristics of interactive PDFs
PDFs that are normally exported from Word documents are usually linear, ugly and hard to read. They are usually upright pages of black Times New Roman text with a few hyperlinks.
In my opinion you can do so much more with PDFs. For starters you have the pages landscape so that they fill the screen. And you should use vector graphics, images, internal links, etc. You can also have forms, movies, layers, rollovers – just about any interactivity that we are used to on the web.
This makes the e-book fun, interactive, non-linear and the sort of publication that you can dip in and navigate around quickly so as to aid the reading and learning experience.
Creating internal links in the interactive PDF
In order to create an internal link within a PDF, you first have to create a Text Anchor in InDesign. With the Text Tool cursor either blinking or having highlighted some text you can create a Text Anchor by either right-clicking and selecting Interactive > New Hyperlink Destination… or by selecting New Hyperlink Destination in the Hyperlinks palette.
The page with this hyperlink destination on it can now be linked to from some text or a button on another page.
If you want to link to the Hyperlink Destination (page) by clicking a button: convert an object to a button by right-clicking and choosing Interactive > Convert to Button.
And then when you have created a button select Go To Desination as the Action of that button in the Buttons palette.
And then you can set the destination of that button as the Text Anchor or Hyperlink Destination you set earlier so that when that button is clicked the PDF will go to the relevant page.
If you want to link to the Hyperlink Destination (page) by clicking a text link: simply highlight the text that you want to be the internal link, and either click the Create new hyperlink button on the Hyperlink palette or, with the text highlighted, right-click and choose Interactive > New Hyperlink… and then in the resulting New Hyperlink dialogue box you can choose the Hyperlink Destination, a Character Style (something colorful and underlined like a link), the Appearance Type (choose Invisible Rectangle) and a Highlight (I usually don’t have one).
And now in the resulting PDF the word, when clicked, will take you to the relevant page of the Hyperlink Destination.
Creating external links in the interactive PDF
Creating hyperlinks in the InDesign document to go to web addresses when clicked is altogether more simple. All you do is select the word which is going to be the hyperlink and click the Create new hyperlink button in the Hyperlinks palette and choose URL in the New Hyperlink dialogue box and type the web address you want to link to.
I usually create a different colored but underlined Character Style for both the internal link text and the hyperlink text to aid the users’ navigation around the document.
Exporting the interactive PDF from InDesign
Remember to choose Adobe PDF (Interactive) when you’ve got the Export dialogue box up by going Cmd/Ctrl-E.
As I say in the video I like to set the Security to have None Changes Allowed in order to get rid of a very annoying pink bar along the top in Acrobat Reader when viewing the PDF. (Note to Adobe: fix this bug please!)
So, if you want to create an intuitive, beautiful and interactive PDF e-book to be sold online, I would very much recommend you do it in InDesign. Try to incorporate internal links, external links, video, etc., and as many exciting interactive elements as you can.
What other devices and interactivity can you think of to improve the humble PDF?
I would love to know your opinion in the comments below. And, if you found this post useful, please do me a favor and Tweet, Like or +1 it.