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Bring Ideas to Life Through Rich, Interactive PDFs

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If you find yourself working with PDFs often, you can discover many things you can (and can’t) do to them to make them more interesting, and at the same time more user-friendly and useful. Adobe expert Brian Wood explores some of the most widely used interactive features that you can add to a PDF.

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Add Some Bookmarks

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Bookmarks are another of those features that have been around forever in PDFs but aren’t taken full advantage of, I think. Next, you’ll see some great ways to apply them to an interactive PDF:

  1. With the PDF still open, click the Bookmark icon on the left side of the workspace to open the Bookmarks panel (View > Navigation Panels > Bookmarks).
  2. Bookmarks are typically used to create an interactive “table of contents” that allows users to jump between topics (pages) in the PDF. There are many ways to make bookmarks, including clicking the New Bookmark button in the Bookmarks pane. This will create a link that you can rename in the Bookmarks panel to the current “view” or page showing. Here is a quicker way to make bookmarks:

    • Navigate to page 2 in the PDF, and make sure that the Fit One Full Page to Window button is selected in the Toolbars so that the whole page is showing. Press Ctrl+B (Windows) or Cmd+B (Mac OS) to generate a new bookmark.
    • In the Bookmarks panel, click the new bookmark to rename it “page 2” or something similarly clever (see Figure 7).

    Figure 7 Create a new bookmark quickly

    Another great shortcut for bookmarks is to quickly create the bookmark and name it in one step.

  3. Navigate to page 3 in the document and select some text with the Selection tool in the Tools panel. Making sure that the page is fit into the window (the “Fit One Full Page to Window” button is selected), press Ctrl+B (Windows) or Cmd+B (Mac OS) to create a bookmark that is named with whatever text you had selected (see Figure 8).
  4. Figure 8 A create bookmark shortcut

    Next, you will make a bookmark that doesn’t navigate the document at all; rather, it is used to perform an action like printing the document or opening a web page.

  5. Press Ctrl+B (Windows) or Cmd+B (Mac OS) to create a new bookmark in the list. It doesn’t matter what page is showing in the document.
  6. Name the bookmark Print this Document by clicking on the bookmark in the Bookmarks panel (see Figure 9).
  7. Figure 9 Create and name a bookmark

  8. Right-click (Windows) or Ctrl-click (Mac OS) the bookmark named Print this Document and choose Properties. This allows you to edit the appearance and action for a bookmark. With the Appearance tab selected in the Bookmark Properties dialog box, change the Style and/or Color of the bookmark text as it appears in the Bookmarks panel (see Figure 10).
  9. Figure 10 Edit bookmark properties

  10. Click the Actions tab and select the action named Go to a Page in this Document in the Actions list. Click the Delete button. This removes the default action for the bookmark.
  11. Choose Execute a Menu Item from the Select Action menu. Click the Add button. Choose File > Print from the dialog box that appears and click OK. The new action will appear in the Actions list in the Bookmark Properties dialog box. Click OK. Try out the bookmark by clicking it (see Figure 11).
  12. Figure 11 Create a bookmark to print the document

Just know that when you edit the properties for a bookmark, the sky is the limit with the actions that can be applied to it (especially if you know JavaScript)! There is one last little thing I should mention about bookmarks. When you send the PDF to someone, he most likely won’t have the Bookmarks panel showing in his version of Reader or Acrobat. That means all of your hard work with bookmarks will be for naught! We can fix that easily by showing the Bookmarks navigation pane. Here’s how:

  1. With the PDF open, choose File > Properties.
  2. In the Document Properties dialog box, select the Initial View tab. Choose Bookmarks Panel and Page from the Navigation tab menu. Click OK.
  3. Save the PDF and send it off! This way, the person viewing the PDF will have the Bookmarks panel open automatically for him.
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