There are several tools available within Adobe Acrobat DC to repair and set the logical tag structure of the document. These include the Touch Up Reading Reader Order tool, the Order panel, the Tags panel, and the Content panel. The Touch Up Reading Order tool provides the easiest visual tool for tagging and setting order. However, it is limited in the types of structural elements that can be set. The Read Out Loud tool, which provides basic text-to-speech access for PDF files, uses the content order found in the Order panel. Assistive technologies such as screen readers, on the other hand, follow the order found in the Tags panel.

When order changes are made in the Touch Up Reading Order tool or the Order panel, order changes are made in both the Tags panel and the Contents panel automatically. Thus the Tags panel and Order panel generally should be synchronized—although they can get unsynchronized. The Touch Up Reading Order tool (See “Figure 25. Touch Up Reading Order Tool”) can be used to quickly determine whether basic structural tags and reading order have been applied to a document.

The Touch Up Reading Order tool displays tagged page content in shaded rectangles. Each rectangle is numbered and indicates the reading order or tag type of the item on the page. The reading order of items can also be verified by displaying the Order navigation panel.

 

Touch Up Reading Order tool
Figure 24. The Order Navigation Panel
 

Note: When the PDF document is properly tagged, proceed to “Step 9: Use the Accessibility Checker to Evaluate the PDF File”.


The Tags panel is the most advanced panel for tagging PDF files and provides the most flexibility. Advanced users may primarily use the Tags panel for tagging documents in combination with the Selection tool for text and images. Advanced users will find the Touch Up Reading Order tool useful for working with complex data tables and for selecting and tagging text that spans multiple objects.

 

Touch Up Reading Order Tool (TURO)

The Touch Up Reading Order tool provides the easiest way to fix basic reading order and tagging issues. When the Touch Up Reading Order tool is activated, a dialog displays an overlay of highlighted rectangles showing the reading order and tag type of page content. Each tagged region is numbered and highlighted with gray or colored blocks (the color is adjustable from the TURO dialog); the lower the number, the higher the content appears in the page’s reading order. The reading order of page content should be addressed first, followed by other semantic tasks.

  • Use the Touch Up Reading Order tool to perform the following accessibility tasks:
  • Visually check, and then repair, the reading order of page content
  • Display the tag type of page content
  • Tag fillable form fields and their labels
  • Assign accessible labels for form fields and alternative text for images
  • Specify heading structure
  • Create formula, figure and caption tags
  • View table structure including table headers and data cells
  • Fix the tagging of simple tables, and prepare complex tables for more advanced manipulation in the logical structure tree
  • Remove decorative content, such as ornamental page borders, from the logical structure tree

 

Touch Up Reading Order Tool (TURO)
Figure 25. Touch Up Reading Order Tool
 

Selecting the Touch Up Reading Order Tool

To display the Touch Up Reading Order tool, if the Accessibility panel is not already displayed, select Tools > Accessibility from the Adobe Acrobat Pro DC menu. Then select the Reading Order command in the Accessibility pane (See “Figure 18. Displaying the Touch Up Reading Order Tool”).

When the Reading Order command is selected, a dialog box opens that displays the overlay highlighted rectangles that show the order of page content (See “Figure 26. Page Content Display with the Touch Up Reading Order Tool”).

 

Selecting the Touch Up Reading Order Tool
Figure 26. Page Content Display with the Touch Up Reading Order Tool
 

Each highlighted region is numbered and highlighted with gray or colored blocks (colors can be customized from the dialog); the numbers indicate each region’s position in the page’s reading order. To display the contents corresponding tag type rather than reading order, check the “Structure Types” radio button.

 

Touch Up Reading Order Tool Options

  • Select Touch Up Reading Order options from the dialog box, from the pop-up menu that appears when the right mouse button is pressed in a highlighted region, or from the Options menu in the Order tab. The Touch Up Reading Order tool includes the following options:
  • Text: Tags the selection as text.
  • Background: Tags the selection as a background element, or artifact, removing the item from the tag tree so that it doesn’t appear in the reflowed document and isn’t read by screen readers.
  • Figure: Tags the selection as a figure. Text contained within a figure tag is defined as part of the image and is not read by screen readers.
  • Figure/Caption: Tags a selected figure and caption as a single tag. Any text contained in the tag is defined as a caption. Useful for tagging photos and captions and preventing caption text from being incorrectly added to adjacent text blocks. Figures may require alternate text.
  • Table: Tags the selection as a table after the selection is analyzed to determine the location of headings, columns, and rows.
  • Cell: Tags the selection as a table or header cell. Use this option to merge cells that are incorrectly split.
  • Form Field: Tags the selection as a form field.
  • Formula: Tags the selection as a formula. Because speech software may handle formula tags differently from normal text, it may be necessary to add a description using alternate text.
  • Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, Heading 4, Heading 5, Heading 6: Tags the selection as a first, second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth level heading tag. Heading elements can be converted to bookmarks to help users navigate the document.
  • Show Page Content Groups: Outlines each content group, and allows the user to select between Page content order, which displays content based on it’s numerical order value, and Structure types, which displays content type, for example Paragraph or Figure, in place of numerical values.
  • Page Content Order: Shows content elements as highlighted areas that contain numbers to indicate the reading order. The rectangle next to this entry is a color swatch. Specify the desired highlight color for page content order by clicking the color swatch.
  • Structure Types: Shows content elements as highlighted areas that contain letters to indicate the tag type.The rectangle next to this entry is a color swatch. Specify the desired highlight color for page content order by clicking the color swatch.  
  • Show Table Cells: Highlights the content of individual table cells. The rectangle next to this entry is a color swatch. Specify the highlight color for Table Cells by clicking the color swatch.
  • Show Tables and Figures: Outlines each table and figure with a crossed-out box. The box also indicates whether the element includes alternate text. The rectangle next to this entry is a color swatch. Specify the highlight color for Tables and Figures by clicking the color swatch.
  • Display Like Elements in a Single Block: Highlights elements like radio button groups in a single rectangle.
  • Clear Page Structure: Removes the tagging structure from the page. Use this option to start over and create a new structure if the existing structure contains too many problems.
  • Show Order Panel: Opens the Order tab to allow reordering of the highlighted content.

The following items are only displayed when right-clicking a corresponding item in the document pane while the Touch Up Reading Order tool is activated:

  • Table Editor: Automatically analyzes the selected table into cells and applies the appropriate tags. Table Editor is only available for content that is tagged as a table.
  • Edit Table Summary: Available via context menu on a highlighted table. Allows the user to add or edit a text description of the table that is read by a screen reader or other assistive technology.
  • Edit Alternate Text: Available via context menu on a highlighted figure. Allows the user to add or edit a text description about the figure properties that is read by a screen reader or other assistive technology.
  • Edit Form Field Text: Available via context menu a form field. Allows the user to add or edit a form field text description that is read by a screen reader or other assistive technology.
  • Delete Selected Item Structure: Removes the structure from the selected item.

 

Tips for using the Touch Up Reading Order Tool

When using the Touch Up Reading Order tool, consider the following:

  • Save the document (or a copy of it) before using the Touch Up Reading Order tool. Undo can not be used to reverse changes made with this tool or the Tags panel. Reverting to a saved document is the only way to undo such a change.
  • Choose View > Page Display > Single Page, when using the Touch Up Reading Order tool. When the Clear Structure button is activated, Acrobat clears tags from all visible pages—even pages that are only partially visible.

 

Checking Read Order with the Touch Up Read Order Tool

The reading order can quickly be checked by using the Touch Up Reading Order tool. It is possible to use this tool to add alternate text to images and correct many types of tagging problems that are outlined in the report that Acrobat generates when adding tags to a PDF.

Reading order issues are readily apparent when using the Touch Up Reading Order tool. Each section of contiguous page content appears as a separate highlighted region and is numbered according to its placement in the reading order. It may be helpful to turn off the option “Display Like Elements in a Single Box” to change the order of similar elements that appear to be grouped with one number in the Order.

Within each region, text is ordered left to right and top to bottom. (This order can be changed in the Touch Up preferences.) If a single highlighted region contains two columns of text or text that will not flow normally, divide the region into parts that can be reordered. Because highlighted regions are rectangular, they may overlap somewhat, especially if their page content is irregularly shaped. Unless page content overlaps or is contained within two highlighted regions, no reading order problem is indicated. Page content should belong to no more than one highlighted region.

The reading order of the highlighted regions can be changed by moving an item in the Order panel or by dragging the numbers on the page in the document pane. By reordering highlighted regions on the page, it is possible to make a figure and caption appear in the reading order at the specific point that they are referenced in the text. By changing the order of a highlighted region, the reading order can effectively be changed for an item without changing the actual appearance of the PDF.

To check the reading order with the Touch Up Reading Order tool:

  1. Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  2. In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, select Show Page Content Order.

Note: If highlighted regions do not appear in the document pane, the document does not contain tags. Tags will need to be added to the document (See “Step 6: Add Tags to the Document”).


The page view may be modified by doing any of the following:

  • To specify a highlight color, click on one of the color swatches, the small squares to the right of the check boxes for “Show page content groups”, “Show table cells” and “Show tables and figures.” Select the desired color from the swatch that pops up in the Touch Up Reading Order dialog.
  • To highlight tables and figures, and to view alternate text for figures, select Show Tables And Figures checkbox.
  • Check the reading order of text within each highlighted region. Zooming in can make this step easier.
    • It may be necessary to uncheck the display like elements in a single block checkbox to verify that elements within a single block are ordered correctly.
  • Check the numbered order of all highlighted regions. If consecutive, numbered regions don’t follow one another, reorder them in the Order panel.
  • Click Show Order Panel, and then select each content entry (in square brackets [ ]) in the Order panel to highlight that content region in the document pane. Use this method to find numbered regions that cannot be seen or located on the page.

 

Change the Reading Order Using the Order Panel

In the Order panel, highlight an item in the list that corresponds to a numbered item in the document view. Push the item up or pull it down until it falls into the proper sequence.

  • Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  • In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, click Show Order Panel.
  • The Order panel shows a list of highlighted regions that appear in the document pane.
  • Push items up or drag them down to rearrange their order. (Note copy and paste keyboard commands can also be used).

Note: Another way to display the Order panel is from the Acrobat Pro menu. Select View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Order.


Another way to display the Order panel
Figure 27: Acrobat Pro DC Order Panel
 
Edit Tags with the Touch Up Reading Order Tool

Use the Touch Up Reading Order tool to create tags in untagged PDFs, or to add new tags to an existing structure. This manual tagging does not provide the same level of detail to the tagging structure as the Autotag Document command. For example, tags such as individual paragraphs, bulleted and numbered lists, line breaks, and hyphens. Sometimes it may be necessary to activate the “clear page structure” feature of the Touch Up Reading Order tool. Make sure that manual tagging is the only option before clearing the structure.

 

Tag a Region

With the Touch Up Reading Order tool active:

  1. Drag within the document pane to select a region of the page that contains one type of content (for example, a text block).
    • To add more page content to the current selection, Shift-drag.
    • To remove page content from the current selection, Control-drag/Command-drag.
  2. Activate the appropriate button in the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box to specify the tag type.

 

Change the Tag for a Region

If a page element is not tagged incorrectly, change the tag type for the highlighted region.

  1. Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  2. To select a highlighted region, click the number of a highlighted region.
  3. Click the button for the tag type the highlighted region should be.

 

Add or Remove Content from a Tagged Region

The Touch Up Reading Order tool always displays as few highlighted regions as possible. If content within a highlighted region does not flow properly, it may be necessary to split a region to reorder it. Highlighted regions may also contain adjacent page content that is unrelated or requires a different tag type. Page content may become orphaned from related elements, particularly if the content doesn’t fit within a rectangular shape. Use the Touch Up Reading Order tool to add or remove content from a region, or to split a region to reorder the content.

  • Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  • In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, unselect “Display like elements in a single box”
  • In the document pane, select a highlighted region.

Do one of the following:

  • To add content to the current selection, Shift-click the content to add. The pointer changes to include a plus sign (+).
  • To remove content from the current selection, Control-click/Command-click the content to be removed. The pointer changes to include a minus sign (-).
  • Click the button for the tag type to be highlighted.

 

Split a Region into two Regions

  1. Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  2. In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, unselect Display like elements in a single box.
  3. In the document pane, drag to select the content to create as the new region.
  4. Activate the desired tag button (such as text) in the dialog box. The highlighted region splits into two regions, numbered from left to right.
  5. To correct the reading order, click Show Order Panel, and drag the split region to the correct location in the Order panel.


Note: Regions can be combined by selecting each item in the Order panel (Shift+click) and then choosing the desired tag button in the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box or by choosing the tag type from the context menu.


Apply a Heading Tag

To help readers navigate a document and understand the logical structure of document content, tag content that represents a heading with the appropriate heading level to indicate its position in the document hierarchy.

  1. Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool, and then select the heading text in the PDF.
  2. In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, activate the button corresponding to the appropriate heading tag (for example, Heading 1, Heading 2).

 

Remove Page Elements from the Tag Structure

Automatic tagging cannot always distinguish between instructive figures and decorative page elements. Items that visually enhance page layout, such as decorative borders, lines, or background elements, can add clutter to the structure layout and should be removed. Decorative elements may be tagged as figure tags instead of artifact elements that are not presented to users of assistive technology. You can remove decorative and irrelevant page elements from the tag structure by redefining them with the Background (artifact) tag. Simply deleting these tags from the structure will prevent them be being seen by assistive technology but these untagged elements will then be flagged by the Accessibility Checker. Therefore it is best to tag these elements as artifacts by choosing the Background button of the Touch Up Reading Order tool..

  1. Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  2. In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, select Show Page Content Order and Show Tables And Figures.
  3. In the document pane, select the page element, and then click Background in the dialog box.

 

Apply a Figure Tag

Non-decorative figures must provide alternative text to users who cannot see them. Select an element and define it as a figure by using the Touch Up Reading Order tool. Once it is defined as a figure, add alternate text to describe it.

  1. Activate the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  2. Select the figure by drawing a rectangle around it.
  3. In the Touch Up Reading Order dialog box, activate the Figure button.
  4. In the document pane, right-click the region and choose Edit Alternate Text (See “Figure 28. Add / Edit Alternate Text with Touch Up Reading Order”).
  5. Enter the desired alternate text in the Alternate Text dialog (See “Figure 29. Touch Up Reading Order Alternate Text Dialog”).
  6. Select the OK button.

Use the Touch Up Reading Order to tag figures with captions

Use the Touch Up Reading Order tool to correct tag figures with on-screen captions. Determine whether figures include caption. Typically this occurs when an image such as a graph or illustrative photograph is provided with text below or above it that describes or labels the figure. Background elements that should not be announced should be tagged as background elements.

Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool, and activate Show Tables And Figures in the dialog box.

It may be necessary to do the following:

  • If a figure with caption is not tagged as a figure/caption, select the desired image and text caption content, and then activate the Figure/Caption button in the dialog box.
  • To remove text that was incorrectly combined with a figure, drag to select the text, and click the Text button in the dialog box.
  • To include a caption that is visually grouped with the figure, select the figure and caption, and click the Figure/Caption button in the dialog box.

 

Add Alternate Text with the Touch Up Reading Order Tool

Screen reading software used by people who are blind or visually impaired cannot describe graphical elements that illustrate important concepts in a document. Thus, the document author must provide the description using alternate text. Figures are not recognized or announced by a screen reader unless alternate text is added to the tag properties. Alternate text that is applied to text elements is not generally announced by screen readers. The actual text property must be set to change what is announced by screen readers for non-figure elements. To set alternative text for a figure:

  1. Select the Touch Up Reading Order tool.
  2. Select Show Tables And Figures in the dialog box. Figures that are missing Alternate Text will have a flag indicating “Figure—No alternate text exists” (See “Figure 28. Add / Edit Alternate Text with Touch Up Reading Order”).
  3. Right-click the figure, and choose Edit Alternate Text from the pop-up menu. (See “Figure 28. Edit Alternate Text with Touch Up Reading Order”).
  4. In the Edit Alternate Text dialog box, type a new (or edit an existing) description for the figure. (See “Figure 29. Touch Up Reading Order Alternate Text Dialog”).
  5. Select the OK button.

 

Add Alternate Text
Figure 28. Edit Alternate Text with Touch Up Reading Order
 
Touch Up Reading Order Alternate Text Dialog
Figure 29: Touch Up Reading Order Alternate Text Dialog
 

Proceed to Step 7: Examine and Repair the Tag Structure (Tables).