Slick Trick: Creating PDF Bookmarks

“All PDF is not created equal.”

I tell folks this all the time because it’s true. One nice touch that can make a PDF much easier to use for on-screen viewing is an intuitive and comprehensive collection of bookmarks. The best way to create PDF bookmarks in an automated way is to export PDF directly from InDesign with the Bookmarks option enabled.

However, I realize that sometimes that part of the process is outside of your control. If the PDF was exported from InDesign with the “Create Tagged PDF” option enabled then you still have a trick up your sleeve. Here’s how it goes….

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat and open the Bookmarks Panel.

  2. Click the Options menu in the Bookmarks panel and choose "New Bookmarks from Structure."

  3. Acrobat shows a list of all the XML structure available in the document. Scroll down and choose the tag that matches an appropriate Paragraph Style such as "Head 1" or "Story Headline." Click OK.

  4. Acrobat maps all text with the selected element to a new PDF bookmark. Now you can rename and organize your bookmarks as needed.

Remember that this trick isn’t necessary if the PDF is exported from InDesign with the Bookmarks option enabled.Thanks to Rick Borstein for this Slick Trick.Addition:The original Adobe engineer for the Create Bookmarks from Structure feature in Acrobat just informed me of one more cool trick. Even if the PDF was created via a PostScript/Distiller output path (which loses the document structure) you still have one last option to try.

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat and choose Advanced > Accessibility > Add Tags to Document. This will infer what it can from the document and create tags as best as it knows how.
  2. The structure inference may not be perfect, but you can choose View > Navigation tabs > Tags and tweak the tags in the Tags panel.
  3. Now follow steps 2-4 above. Voila!