Join Mike Rankin for an in-depth discussion in this video PDF publications, part of InDesign CC: Interactive Document Fundamentals (2014).
Here's an example of a PDF publication, InDesign magazine. Not surprisingly, it's created almost entirely with InDesign. It's got a fixed layout. It has hyperlinks on the cover that jump to feature articles. So I can click on this to jump to the article. And if I look in the bookmarks, there are also bookmarks to content. It also have navigation buttons to go to the table of contents and to go to the other pages. Sometimes it also includes interactive quizzes and videos. So let's look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of PDF as a digital publishing format.
The first and maybe biggest benefit of PDF is that you can completely control the look of your design. The position of all the elements, the fonts, the size of type, and so on, will be just as you made them in InDesign. This is not the case when you use other formats like EPUB, which give the reader control over fonts, and can also cause text to re-flow. With PDF, you know what your publication will look like to every reader. In terms of workflow, you can't beat the simplicity of PDF. If you have InDesign and you know how to use it, that may be all you need, although in some cases you may need to do some touch-up work in Adobe Acrobat.
Another great strength of PDF is that the software to view PDFs is ubiquitous and it's free. Nearly every computer in the world has the software to view your publication when it's in PDF. And with PDF viewed on a computer, you can also get a good amount of interactivity. You have hyperlinks and cross-references. You can embed media like audio and video, and elements like tables of contents and indexes can also be interactive. And you can create buttons people can use to navigate through the publication and show or hide content.
The down sides of PDF for digital publications, are that the support for interactive features and media, are inconsistent in Mobile apps. Some PDF Readers will play an embedded video and others won't. Some apps fully support buttons, other apps support only some kinds of buttons or none at all. Another down side of PDF is related to it being a fixed layout format. A PDF is not responsive, meaning it won't adapt to a different screen size or orientation. So, sometimes it's necessary for the viewer to zoom in or out or scroll around to see the content.
A standard EPUB, on the other hand, can adapt to the container it's being viewed in. And finally, if your goal is to get your publication into the Apple iBook store, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. You won't be able to do that with PDF. iBooks and Barnes and Noble use EPUB for their eBooks. And Amazon uses a format called Moby, which is similar to EPUB. But its Amazon's exclusive format. So to sum up, a PDF can be great for a digital publication. When you must have control over the appearance of the layout. And you want to add some interactivity and media to be viewed on computers.
PDF is not as good on mobile devices. Where a lack of responsive design, and full support for interactivity can make your publication seem a lot less impressive than it does on a computer. And a lack of access to online retailers. Like Apple and Amazon give you limited options for where you can sell a PDF publication.
- Overview of interactive document types
- Enhancing a project with interactive objects
- Setting up hyperlinks, page transitions, and a table of contents
- Understanding media formats
- Adding HTML animations
- Manage folios with the Folio Producer
- Creating EPUBs
- Adapting a page layout for mobile devices with Liquid Layout
- Changing page designs with primary text frames
- Formatting text with text style mapping
- Workflows for designing interactive documents
- Customizing the workspace
- Organizing content with layers
- Using third-party scripts to work on interactive documents