What is an interactive PDF?

Interactive PDF

If you think that a document is always a document, then you should think again. Whereas for centuries it was only possible to fill documents with text and imagery, in the modern world, where the internet and technology reign supreme, no longer are documents only created in physical form, they have become electronic as well – and that opens up all manner of possibilities. Indeed, paper-based documents are already dinosaurs in the digital age, as email, eBooks, HTML and even electronic administrative forms are very rapidly replacing their olde-worlde physical counterparts.

And the evolution continues. Text and imagery are now merely the basics of an electronic document – since we’re communicating so much with computers and smart technology, we have come to expect a certain level of interactivity and multimedia capabilities built into the very documents that we are connecting with. And it’s PDFs that are delivering on that expectation.

What are PDFs?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. As the name implies, it is a data format that can be used to describe documents. Adobe, the developers of PDF, market software to create, edit and visualise PDF files – and one such program is the hugely powerful and versatile InDesign.


Adobe InDesign is the industry standard for creating your brochures, leaflets and posters, so its likely you already have an InDesign file that has been prepared for print. It is a relatively straight forward process to add interactive elements to this document to make it much more dynamic and friendly to any user who is viewing it on a PC screen, mobile phone or tablet.

What interactive elements can be added through InDesign?

There are many advantages for using PDFs – they’re quickly and easily created, they’re securable, self-contained, compressible and compact. But their most impressive aspect most certainly lies in the ability that users have to build in interactive features. These can all be done within Adobe InDesign.


Hyperlinks interactive PDF

In an exported PDF document, clicking a hyperlink jumps to another location in the same document, to a different document, or to a website. See Hyperlinks.


interactive buttons on a PDF

Ah, yes – this is something that we’ve covered before on this blog. Buttons are a great way to garner engagement with your documents, and add an interactive element that can boost the user experience (UX), increase conversions, and help with navigation.




Galleries in interactive PDFs

We can overlay numerous images and add a button to cycle through each image without changing the page.


Video - Interactive PDFs

Video can be imported and we can even stylise the control buttons to fit in with your branding and style.


If there’s a medium that can rival video in terms of impact on a document, then it has to be audio. Indeed, sometimes video may not be at all appropriate for the document in question – but a little soundbite might be just perfect. Advertisements come particularly to mind in this instance. When circulating an electronic flyer to advertise your upcoming event, some spirited music or voiceover work can make all the difference between a resounding success and a shameful flop. Choose File > Place, and then double-click the audio file. Click where you want the play button to appear.


forms - interactive PDFs

PDF eForms need not be confined to a boring two-tone palette of black and white – after all, dull and uninspiring forms equal poor engagement from customers, which, in turn, leads to a stagnant conversion rate. 

Cross References

These are simple, but extremely effective, and especially useful when creating user guides and manuals. A cross-reference refers readers from one part of your document to another in the exported PDF file. 

These are just a few, but all in all there are dozens of interactive elements, all with numerous variations, that can be applied to a PDF with InDesign.

We offer an interactive conversion service where we can convert your existing print based documents in to dynamic interactive PDFs for as little as £200! Contact us for some examples and a quotation for converting your documents.




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