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InDesign Insider Training: Interactive PDFs

Desktop versus mobile readers


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InDesign Insider Training: Interactive PDFs

with David Blatner

Video: Desktop versus mobile readers

I don't want to be a downer, but it's time to get real for a minute. And that means talking about the unfortunate truth that not all PDFs look or behave the same everywhere. Remember that the original goal of PDF 20 years ago was a ubiquitous file format. You could send it anywhere, open it on any computer and it would just work. But corporate politics and technology got in the way. So, here's where we stand today. The best program to view PDFs is not surprisingly Adobe Acrobat or the free Acrobat Reader on a desktop or laptop computer.

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InDesign Insider Training: Interactive PDFs
2h 22m Intermediate Jul 23, 2013 Updated Jan 17, 2014

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While PDFs can be used for printing, they also have interactive features that make them great for forms, brochures, and prototypes. In this course, InDesign insider David Blatner tells you what interactive PDFs are, why they're so useful, and how to make them yourself with Adobe InDesign and Acrobat. Learn to make hyperlinks to websites, other pages in your document, and email; add buttons that navigate, show, and hide content; create a form with check boxes and text entry fields; and embed audio and video. Plus, discover how to add polish with calculations, page transitions, and more.

Topics include:
  • Creating a new interactive document
  • Linking to URLs and mail addresses
  • Creating bookmarks
  • Adding buttons with rollover states
  • Adding text, list, and submit fields to forms
  • Embedding audio and video
  • Adding page transitions
  • Best practices for exporting high-quality interactive PDF files
Subjects:
Design Digital Publishing PDF
Software:
InDesign
Author:
David Blatner

Desktop versus mobile readers

I don't want to be a downer, but it's time to get real for a minute. And that means talking about the unfortunate truth that not all PDFs look or behave the same everywhere. Remember that the original goal of PDF 20 years ago was a ubiquitous file format. You could send it anywhere, open it on any computer and it would just work. But corporate politics and technology got in the way. So, here's where we stand today. The best program to view PDFs is not surprisingly Adobe Acrobat or the free Acrobat Reader on a desktop or laptop computer.

That means a Mac or Windows machine or even Linux. However, there are bunch of PDF clones out there programs that read pdf files but are held at same standard at dolby is, so they cut corners. The most common one is the preview App on the Mac. In fact every PDF publisher I know has says the same thing, they don't get a lot of text support questions but the answer to almost all of them is are you using preview. If so, please use acrobat. Preview is usually okay with print PDFs or basic PDFs things with just hyperlinks, but interactive PDFs with buttons and movies and that kind of thing not that much.

So, what about tablets? Tablets are tricky because the vast majority of PDFs that are viewed on tablets are viewed in PDF clone apps, readers that are not Adobe certified. To make it even more interesting, Adobe reader on IOS and Android isn't even necessarily the best PDF reader on those devices. Some of the clone readers are actually even better at some things. There are way too many PDF readers on tablets to really compare them all, but because a lot of people ask me for my opinions about PDF readers apps on tablets, I should tell you about some of my favorites.

First, there's iBooks on the iPad and iPhone and iBooks is not one of my favorites. iBooks is like the most basic of readers on the iOS. It just uses the built in support for PDF in iOS. Just like preview on the Mac, it's relatively slow. It doesn't currently support buttons or most interactive PDF features, although hyperlinks seem to work fine. So, it's fine for PDFs that aren't too big or fancy, and it does have the big benefit that almost every iPad of iPhone user has it.

And then there's Adobe Reader. Adobe has its own Reader that works on both IOS and Android tablets like the Kindle Fire. It's definitely a step up from the quality of the built-in PDF support in IOS and Android, and it has the benefit of being free. Reader can do annotations like notes and it let's you fill in forms, which is great. But unfortunately it's still weak when it comes to interactive PDFs, and buttons, and movies, and stuff and it certainly can't deal with flash or Javascript or anything too fancy. But, of course, none of the reader apps scan on tablets. Now, Adobe is releasing new versions regularly so by the time you watched it, something might have changed.

It's definitely worth having this one on your tablet. Now, a lot of people I know list Good Reader as their favorite PDF reader. And it's certainly very capable in most respects, and it handles even really big PDFs pretty darn well. But for all that it does well, it cannot handle most of the interactive PDF features. For example, no videos, even buttons don't really work right. PDF Expert is my personal favorite. Granted it's more expensive than the others, and it only works on the iPad right now, but it does most of what I want it to. It can even show navigation buttons like next page, or previous page, although honestly, it doesn't make them really pretty.

Finally, the basic Dropbox app is actually surprisingly good when it comes to displaying PDF files. If you have Dropbox on your desktop or laptop, you just put a PDF in there, it syncs to your tablet or iPhone, and you open it up and it works! You can view the PDF inside Dropbox right on the tablet or app. Weirdly it handles movies great, but most of the other interactive features such as buttons, they just don't work at all. Chances are that you're just making PDFs and you can't really control where your audience is going to be viewing them. You know that movies don't work on most of the PDF readers on the tablets. So, maybe you'll have to think twice before including them if you think your PDFs are going to be headed for a tablet.

There are some other best practices that you can take advantage of when making your PDFs that will maximize how well they'll appear in various readers. And I'm going to explain all of those issues in the upcoming chapters.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about InDesign Insider Training: Interactive PDFs.


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Q: I am trying to turn objects in a layered InDesign document into buttons, following the lessons in Chapter 3, but they don't show up when I export to PDF. What's wrong?
A: This is a known issue with InDesign, stacked layers, and buttons. The final stacking order in your PDF is actually determined by the order the buttons are created, not the stacking order of the layers in your document. David Blatner has researched and proposed a solution to this issue on his InDesign Secrets blog. Read more about it here.
Q: This course was updated on 01/17/2014. What changed?
A: The author updated three movies in the "Links and Bookmarks" chapter, since the behavior of hyperlinks has recently changed in InDesign CC.
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