How to make an interactive PDF.

Learn how to create an interactive PDF and some tips and ideas for using interactive features.

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Enhancing engagement with interactive PDFs.

We live in a world where we consume a lot of electronic content. To engage readers, documents that encourage interaction are one of the best ways to make your content work. Interactive PDFs can help with that. Interactive PDFs work well with promotional and practical documents. Dynamic and user-friendly, they can be used to both share and gather information.

What is an interactive PDF?

An interactive PDF is a document that your readers can engage and interact with. Not just static text or words on a page, an interactive PDF can be as dynamic as you want and may include things like —

  • Embedded videos
  • Audio and sound clips
  • Images and GIFs
  • Links to emails and websites
  • Bookmarks to navigate around your document
  • Page transitions such as page flips
  • Fillable forms
  • Clickable buttons and drop-down lists
  • Sidebar menus

A PDF or portable document format file, is the format originally developed by Adobe to be able to be shared and accessed across different systems, platforms and devices.

Interactive PDF advantages.

Why create interactive PDFs? There are a few very good reasons to make interactive PDFs.

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  • Visual appeal — The inclusion of interactive features in a PDF help to get your content noticed. Interactive elements can make your content pop and make it more interesting and appealing for your readers.
  • Physical interaction — Interactive elements in PDFs encourage people to engage and physically interact with your content. People are more likely to remember and get involved with your content if they must physically act. For example, by clicking a button, completing a form, watching a video or listening to sound effects.
  • Navigation — Adding interactive elements can help your readers navigate your document. For example, slide bar menus with bookmarks to get to different sections.
  • Accessibility — Interactive PDFs can be viewed with the free Acrobat Reader.

How to create an interactive PDF.

Interactive PDFs can be created from both new and existing documents and content. Here’s how to get started on creating an interactive PDF —

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Open an existing PDF file — use Acrobat Pro to open and edit an existing PDF file and add interactive features to the content.

Create a new PDF file — use Acrobat Pro to create a new PDF file and add text and interactive elements.

Convert documents to PDF —converting documents in other formats such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel to PDF is easy. You can do this within the app or just drag and drop to convert to PDF online.

Add PDF interactivity to InDesign documents — for interactive documents that pack a punch, check out what you can do in InDesign and other Adobe creative tools to make interactive PDFs.

Steps for how to create interactive PDFs in Acrobat.

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To create an interactive PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro, follow these steps:

1. Open your PDF (or create a new one).

  • To add buttons: Edit PDF > Link > Add/Edit Web or Document Link > Menu Button.
  • To add links: Edit PDF > Link > Add/Edit Web or Document Link.
  • To add a video: Tools > Rich Media > Add Video > Insert Video.
  • To add tickboxes: Tools > Prepare Form > Tickbox.
  • To add other form fields, like signatures: Tools > Prepare Form.

2. Preview the final version.

  • To preview your elements: Tools > Print Production > Output Preview.

Test each element to make sure it works as you intended. Take a few moments to make any last-minute changes before continuing.

3. Export your interactive PDF file.

After you’ve created your interactive PDF, you’ll need to export and save it. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  • Go to the File menu and select Export.
  • Choose the format you’d like to export to (such as PDF or HTML).
  • Follow the prompts to save your file.

Uses for interactive PDFs.

The uses of interactive PDFs are many — whether you’re in business, a teacher or student or looking to create a fun project for your household tasks.

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Some examples of how interactive PDFs can be set up and used are —

Sales and marketing interactive PDFs.

Use interactive PDFs for sales and marketing that will leave a lasting impression. Embed tutorial videos that encourage viewers to learn more about your products or services and see who you are and what you do. Include interactive elements such as links to your website and to contact list sign-ups.

Educational and instructional interactive PDFs.

Provide students with a more immersive learning experience with PDFs. Including lecture videos and engaging charts and visuals. Add elements such as interactive quizzes and questions throughout to reinforce understanding.

Creative professionals’ interactive PDFS.

Show your creative style. Interactive PDFs are an excellent way for anyone in a creative field to highlight their work — photographers, artists, musicians, dancers, writers or designers. Include sound effects, videos and links to take your prospective clients straight to your email.

Business documents as interactive PDFs.

Make that business documents that people want to read the whole way through. Annual reports, presentations, conference materials, newsletters and magazines — all can be brought to life with a few interactive elements to engage your reader. Include navigation features such as sidebar menus with bookmarks to help your readers move from section to section.

Fillable interactive PDF forms.

Collect your customer or clients’ information with fillable PDF forms. Distribute and track completion via email or online links to your document from within Acrobat. You can also add calculations, request signatures, protection and more.

Tips and ideas for using interactive PDF features.

Whatever your intended purpose, you're going to want your interactive PDF to come out as a professional-looking product.

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First, be consistent, logical and structured. Make sure your content flows in a logical and structured order. Start with an outline. Think about your intended audience and what is going to make them want to read and interact with your content. It’s all about user experience. Be consistent with your use of fonts, colours and branding to convey your message.

Then, choose interactive elements to enhance your content and your readers’ experience —

  • Videos — insert videos to provide more information, show a process or product or just add a human touch to the text.
  • Audio — add music or sound effects to set the theme and tone of your content.
  • Bookmarks — insert bookmarks linked to headings, especially in multiple-page documents.
  • Images and GIFs — grab your readers’ attention with images and visuals that correspond with your content.
  • Buttons — add buttons to perform specific actions, such as showing or hiding text or images or selecting an option in a fillable form.
  • Links — use links to direct readers to additional resources, such as web pages, emails, payment gateways and other documents.