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November 4, 2009 /How-To's /

Control how PDFs look when you open them

Please forgive any missing images or edits from our blog archives.

Over the months, we’ve seen a few questions come in via Twitter and the blogs asking us essentially the same question: “How do I control how my PDFs look when I open them in Reader or Acrobat?”

It’s a simple question that has a slightly complex answer. There are actually two settings that can control how a PDF looks when it is opened. One setting can be set by the PDF author. The other setting can be set by the PDF consumer.

Let’s start with the consumer…

Reader (and Acrobat) has a “Select and Zoom” toolbar which controls the magnification of the PDF you’re viewing.


There are a few tools shown by default. But if you want to display additional Select and Zoom tools, you can right-click on the toolbar and see additional tools.


Similarly, Reader (and Acrobat) as a “Page Display” toolbar which controls how many pages you see on your screen at once and how those pages behave when you scroll. And again, you can right-click on the toolbar to see additional tools.


ADDITIONAL POWER USER FEATURE: If you want to see all of the tools you can display on your Reader (or Acrobat) toolbars, choose “More Tools…” at the bottom of the right-click menu. This will reveal all of the tools which can appear on your toolbars. You can select the ones you use most frequently so they will always be visible. Choose “Reset Toolbar” to return the toolbars to the default state.

However, it can get annoying resetting the magnification and page display settings each time you open a PDF file. For that reason, under Preferences (Edit > Preferences > Page Display), we give you the ability to control the default magnification and page display settings for every PDF file you open.


If you prefer that every PDF opens at a zoom level of “100%” or “Fit Width”, set it here. Then, every PDF file you open will open at this zoom level. Even if you open that PDF file in the browser!

More information about Page Display Preferences can be found in the Acrobat Help File here.

However, that takes us to the author…

There are cases where the author of the PDF file feels that his file is best consumed with a certain page layout or magnification. For example, if the file is a 75 inch by 100 inch map of the United States, he may want to make sure that you don’t open it at “100%” (which would likely only show a portion of the map). Instead he’ll want you to open it at “Fit Page” so that you’ll be able to see the entire map by default. An Acrobat user can specify the magnification and page layout for his PDF file by going to Document Properties (File > Properties > Initial View) and setting these properties.


When he saves the file, the file will inherit these properties. Then, when the PDF is opened by someone else, the file will open with the author’s properties. In other words, the author’s properties will override the consumer’s preferences for that particular file.

ADDITIONAL POWER USER FEATURE: Did you notice all the other Initial View properties you can set as the document author? You can control which Navigation Tabs are open by default. (For example, maybe your PDF as bookmarks and you want the Bookmark Tab to be open so your document consumer can see these bookmarks easily.) You can have the PDF open to a certain page. And a lot more!

More information about Initial View properties can be found in the Acrobat Help File here.

There you have it. A complex answer to a simple question. But now you’re better armed (as an Acrobat or Reader user) to control exactly how your PDFs look when you open them.

Let us know what you think. There’s already a discussion on this topic on the Acrobat User Community Forum here. And let us know if there are additional questions which we can help answer for you.


Categories: How-To's


  • By Larry - 8:43 AM on November 10, 2009   Reply

    Hello, I’ve been in contact with every support techie out there and no one has an answer, the last suggestion was to contact Adobe, so here I am.
    I inadvertently installed Acrobat 9 a week ago and now I cannot uninstall it. I used “Revo Uninstaller”, “fileASSASSIN”, “Uninstaller 4″, “SysShield file shredder” and “Windows Add/Remove” programs. Each and every on of them resonded with the same results, Viz:”C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 9.0\Resource\CMap\Identity-H ACCESS DENIED”…”C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 9.0\Resource\CMap\Identity-V ACCESS DENIED”…”C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 9.0\Resource\CMap\UCS2-GBK-EUC ACCESS DENIED”…C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 9.0\Resource\CMap\UniKS-UTF16-H ACCESS DENIED”…, etc., etc.
    Each and every uninstall/delete program results in the same “Access Denied”. Please tell me how I can delete/uninstall Acrobat 9.0. I’ve even gone into “Safe Mode” but the same results.
    If you are not in the position to resolve this problem could you possibly put me in touch with someone who could assist me with this?
    Anticipating a speedy response and thanking you in advance for any assistance you can provide.
    ( )

    [Larry – Your best option is to contact Adobe directly here. On the right-hand side, you can contact Support (see the “Support” box) or post a question in the Forum (see the “Forums” box). For your particular issue, I’d recommend you contact Support, since it is likely a specific issue unique to your computer. – Dave]

  • By Wesley - 2:38 PM on November 12, 2009   Reply

    Any word about MDI/SDI?
    It’s been a couple of months since you said you would run this up the flag pole and I still haven’t seen anything (here or from Adobe at large).
    Thanks in advance for any info.

  • By Gerry - 8:49 AM on December 17, 2009   Reply

    this is unrelated to this page, finally found a way to make contact and am using it.
    MDI vs SDI article by Dave Stromfeld said v8 pro can still use MDI but I can’t find that setting anywhere in the preferenes, the help or online.
    please help, thanks

    [Gerry – In A8, go to Edit > Preferences > Documents. Then check “Show each document in it’s own window” – Dave]

  • By PassingThru - 10:35 AM on January 4, 2010   Reply

    Larry, sounds like a file permission problem, not an uninstaller or Adobe problem. make sure you have delete access to the files before attempting to uninstall.

  • By Lorri Grant - 5:15 AM on August 27, 2010   Reply

    thats a great article!
    keep doing this huge job!
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  • By Pam - 1:34 PM on September 7, 2010   Reply

    I have set the properties for a PDF document (Acrobat 9) so that the bookmarks show when the document is opened. It works fine when I open the document on my desktop.

    However, when I upload it to a website and then attach it to text as a link, it opens without the bookmarks showing.

    This happens both in IE8 and the current version of Firefox.

    • By Suresh - 3:29 AM on September 28, 2010   Reply

      Hi Pam,

      Can you please let me know the options to set bookmark show be default (Expanded) ? And also, can you please let me know if this settings is possible only in Acrobat or it is also possible in Adobe reader ?

      Thanks in advance for your reply

  • By Soe - 10:07 AM on March 18, 2015   Reply

    Is there any way to make Acrobat Pro xi have the Comments panel opened/expanded every time when I open pdfs? I tried Edit – Preferences – Documents and ticked the option “Restore last view settings when reopening documents” but all that does is that when I reopen a doc it shows me the same page at which I closed it. It does not keep the Comments panel open.

    • By Acrobat Team - 6:26 AM on March 24, 2015   Reply

      Hi Soe,

      The only way to do this would be to create a new Tool Set (the Customized menu in the upper right corner) that contains the Comment tools panels.^LK

      • By Soe - 6:57 AM on March 24, 2015   Reply

        Hi LK,
        Thanks for the reply. I know how to make custom tool sets, but what you are suggesting is not an answer to my question. Even if I create a custom tool set containing all the tools I need it still remains minimized when I reopen a pdf document. That is because the custom tool set I create gets placed just left from to the ‘Fill & Sign’ and ‘Comments’ and therefore is also treated the same way as the ‘Fill & Sign’ and ‘Comments’ i.e. stays always minimized upon opening a pdf and I have to manually expand it every single time. So in that sense it does not matter if I just click on my custom-made tool panel or on the Comments panel .. they are both still minimized every time. Therefore … no point in creating the custom tool panel in the first place. So .. my question still remains unanswered, but still thank you very much for the suggestion. Anyone else, please?

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