InDesign multi-state objects in interactive PDFs

InDesign has cool multi-state objects that let you create some really awesome effects. You can use these to create slideshows and other interactive content. As you might have noticed, multi-state objects work in SWF output only. So what do you do if you want to include a slideshow in an interactive PDF?

You can add multi-state objects to interactive PDFs. It is a  little cumbersome and clumsy, but works quite well.

A simple two-step process; so simple, that most of you might be doing this already!

  1. Create a multi-state object and export to SWF.
  2. Place the SWF in your main document.

See Create Multi-state objects in the InDesign help for information about multi-state objects.

For example, if you want to add a slideshow to an interactive PDF, do the following:

Create a multi-state slideshow

  1. Create your slideshow in a new document.
  2. Export to SWF. See this for more information on exporting to SWF.

It’ll help if you specify the dimensions as per the frame where you’re going to place it.

Bob Bringhurst, has written a nice overview about Multi-state objects here.

InDesign CS5 introduces a new kind of page item designed for creating slide shows in a SWF file. A multi-state object changes its content when a button is clicked in a SWF file. To create a multi-state object, place a bunch of images in your document and align them in a stack. Select them all, and then click the New button in the Object States panel to create a multi-state object. Then use the Buttons panel—which has been enhanced in InDesign CS5—to create navigate arrows that jump to the next or previous state in the multi-state object.


Place SWF in your main document

  1. Choose File > Place and place the SWF file.
  2. Specify Poster settings.

For more information see Add movies and sound files to documents.

Export to interactive PDF

  1. Choose File > Export.
  2. Specify a name and location for the file.
  3. For Save As Type (Windows) or Format (Mac OS), choose Adobe PDF (Interactive), and then click Save.
  4. Specify options in the Export To Interactive PDF dialog box, and then click OK.

For more information see Create interactive documents for PDF.

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  1. #1 by robert on August 30, 2011 - 6:13 am

    I’ve been trying to save out a multi-state object as a swf from ID5, then re-inserting it, but when I place it back into the InDesign document, it’s showing up significantly smaller than the original multi-state object, everything is scaled down.

    What am I doing wrong?

  2. #2 by Jimi on February 1, 2012 - 4:26 pm

    I’m having a similar problem, Robert did you ever find a solution to this?

    • #3 by Bob on January 8, 2013 - 2:17 am

      I’m guessing from Robert’s original comment back in 2011 when he refers to “significantly smaller” that what he means is that the swf seems lower resolution or fuzzy when inserted back into InDesign.

      If I’m correct in this assumption, from my own experience I’ve seen that when the .indd file with the embeded swf is reexported to interactive pdf, the swf graphics are back to being nice and sharp as intended.

  3. #4 by Vikrant on February 1, 2012 - 5:06 pm

    “Can I have page turns and animations created in Adobe InDesign in a PDF?” – The answer is yes. Find out how.

  4. #5 by Rachita on December 25, 2012 - 12:54 pm

    object state is working with swf only… if iused object state and export a pdf or epub for mobile devices, it is not working .. so help me out what to do

  5. #6 by Jill on November 6, 2013 - 9:14 pm

    So, I’ve got my SWF (created by the object states, folio overlays, etc). I export to the SWF file, insert it into Indesign, export the interactive PDF and nothing happens. Although when previewed, the SWF slideshow plays/loops just fine.

    I need to insert this slideshow into an interactive PDF presentation to a client…. Any ideas?

  6. #7 by Chris on December 6, 2013 - 7:10 am

    ok… so heres MY issue….
    i have created a slideshow using a multistate setting, with 5 images. i have placed a next and previous button at the bottom, and when i preview this within CS6 indesign, it works just fine, then when i export to a pdf and open in in acrobat or reader, there buttons still show up but nothing happens when i click, it doesnt go to the next slide. have tried remaking this 4 times just to be sure, and is the same every time. i have also checked that i have the latest up to date reader and that i am exporting this correctly…..what am i doing wrong? and why the EFF wont it work?

    • #8 by Vikrant on December 6, 2013 - 11:25 am

      This blog post explains a workaround to adding a slideshow to a PDF; because what you’re trying to do does not work directly. Multi-state objects are not exported to an interactive PDF.

      You’ll need to export the slideshow as a SWF, and then embed the SWF into a new layout and then export to interactive PDF.

  7. #9 by Jody on February 24, 2014 - 8:10 am

    I’ve done this in CS6 but it doesn’t work. I’ve created the MSO in a separate ID document and it displays and works correctly. Then I exported as swf. Placed the swf file in my interactive pdf doc and exported as interactive pdf. It comes in as a rectangle with a flash icon, but doesn’t display in the document or the exported pdf. What am I missing here?

  8. #10 by Jen on March 11, 2015 - 2:18 am

    I have created a large PDF catalog. Some pages I need to show the same information but 10 different product images. I have created a SWF slideshow that clicks through them all. Everything works when I export to interactive PDF, BUT I want to be able to print all of the slides showing the 10 product images. How do I do this?

  9. #11 by Mark on April 15, 2015 - 8:41 pm

    I have a problem, I made a document where when I click this button the image appears, when I export it into Interactive PDF, the button is there but the image won’t show. Please HELP.

  10. #12 by thuy halle on August 24, 2016 - 3:02 pm

    Fantastic suggestions ! I am thankful for the points – Does anyone know if my assistant could possibly grab a sample a form version to use ?

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