The Power and Peeves of Interactive PDF

Imagine designing an online brochure with a photo for each of your products. Then when someone clicks a product image, they turn into a video showing off the cool features.

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One of the best things about Adobe InDesign is the ability to save your files as Interactive PDFs.

What’s an Interactive PDF?

This is no bog standard portable document format (PDF) file. You can add active hyperlinks, for example, and fillable forms. You can design a Submit button and have the data in that form sent to an email address. You can also add bookmarks and movies.

What can you do with it?

The sky’s the limit with what you could do with an interactive PDF. Here are a few ideas.

  • Make an Annual Report for your company. Leave out the financial tables and use the general company info for your organisation all year round.
  • Make a Product Catalogue to Email to prospective customers / clients.
  • Make a membership brochure with a fillable application form. You can also link to to a payment gateway like Paypal if you want.
  • Show off a Portfolio of your work and have an enquiry form.

Current Challenges with Interactive PDF

One of the challenges around interactive PDFs is the lack of consistency between PDF viewers over the internet. The PDF file was created by Adobe, as well as InDesign and Acrobat, and interactive PDFs are best viewed using Adobe software–whether that is the free Adobe Reader of a sufficiently up-to-date standard (although it doesn’t need to be the latest. Version 7 is fine), or the paid Acrobat Pro or Acrobat DC.

Some browsers have developed their own in-browser PDF viewing capability (Chrome and Firefox), but unfortunately these don’t support all of the interactive features of the PDF. It’s a real pain and I wish they would get their software in order as Adobe should have the first and last word on what is a universal standard of PDF.

How do you get around the issues?

There’s no easy answer, other than to suggest two things. It might be better to use as a downloadable document or one to send by email. That will avoid the dodgy browser issues.

Of course, always mention that the PDF is interactive and best viewed in Adobe Acrobat or the free Adobe Reader (e.g. version 7 or later).

How does it look in ISSUU?

Issuu is a fantastic platform for online magazines I’ve been using for nearly a decade. I tested an interactive PDF in issuu and the results were better than I expected. The hyperlinks worked, including my link over to Paypal, and so did the fillable form. The video, however, didn’t play. No surprises there. Video seems to be the main bugbear when it comes to compatibility.

Want Help?

If you are interested in turning an existing document into an interactive PDF, please get in touch and I can help you make it happen. If you are interested in purchasing Adobe InDesign or Acrobat DC, Adobe has pretty cheap monthly subscriptions. You no longer need to purchase the software outright and wait for it to get obsolete. It’s a much better system in my humble opinion. Buy Adobe software here