33 Replies Latest reply on Sep 16, 2013 8:54 AM by Eugene Tyson

    Interactive pdfs




      I've created an interactive pdf for a client including destinations, hyperlinks and buttons. They have had to take it down from their website though after a lot of users complained that the interactive elements didn't work for them.

      What is the point of having the interactive features in indesign if most end users view them in-browser, on a tablet, or in a non-Adobe pdf reader, all of which aren't compatable with a lot of the interactive features? Is there a way around this that i'm missing that makes the interactive pdf univerally compatable?


      Thanks in advance



        • 1. Re: Interactive pdfs
          Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          Not an expert on web or anything - but I don't think there's a way to force someone to open a file in Acrobat.


          Best you can do is say "For best results viewing this PDF use Acrobat (version number or higher)"



          Unfortunately you cannot dictate how someone will open your file. I often get asked "Can you make this so it prints on 2 sides for everyone?"


          And the answer is simply "No", because I can't dictate what printer everyone has.



          FireFox and Chrome have both introduced their own PDF reader - and neither of them can read all the Adobe PDF modules.


          This is a flaw of FF and Chrome - not Adobe.



          Some people use Mac Preview, or 3rd Party PDF readers not authored by Adobe - and these too cannot read all the Modules in an Adobe PDF.


          Again, it's not Adobe's fault that someone made an inferior PDF reader.



          So best you can do is instruct people to use Adobe Reader (version number) for best results.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Interactive pdfs
            Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

            Disable Firefox PDF reader



            Disable Chrome PDF reader (click on see addtional...)




            Or you could ask people to save the file and open in Acrobat Reader for best results.

            • 3. Re: Interactive pdfs
              cr41gsc0tt Level 1

              That's what I thought. Unfortunately the document is one we have to provide to people legally so we have to ensure they can view it. i think you're right, I don't think telling people how to view it is a solution. It's ashame really that the interactive elements of indesign are so good, but are limited to a small amount of end-users. Unfortunately means we can't use these features for our clients now


              Thanks for the help chaps

              • 5. Re: Interactive pdfs
                cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                Thanks Eugene,


                I can open the pdf fine but once it's up on the website it will be downloaded by approx 140,000 people. So the issue is that the interactivity won't work for most of them. I think giving them instructions on how to use the document will defeat the point of us trying to make it more user friendly. Bit dissapointing really from Adobe to push these features so heavily but fail to mention how limited they are when providing content to a wide audience.

                Thanks again for your help

                • 6. Re: Interactive pdfs
                  Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  It's not Adobe's fault that other manufactuers of PDF readers don't support all the Adobe PDF modules.


                  You should aim your disappointment at them.


                  Adobe have made the interactive features work properly, they created the appropriate modules to use them in Acrobat.


                  It's 3rd Party PDF readers that are the disappointment. In my opinion.

                  • 7. Re: Interactive pdfs
                    Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                    I'd say the best solution is to have an interactive PDF and a plain PDF and let people choose.


                    I'd be inclined to add the line "Interactive PDF best viewed in Acrobat Reader".

                    • 8. Re: Interactive pdfs
                      cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                      I suppose, but when the majority of an audience aren't using Acrobat it becomes a limited feature that isn't worth offering to clients on the basis that a large part of their audience will be unable to use it.


                      Aside from advising to use Adobe reader, most browsers now open pdfs in-browser but don't support the interactive features.


                      So I would have to advise users on how to bypass this, download it to their desktop and then download and istall Adobe Reader just to be able to view the document.


                      A lot of our clients users are old people or have limited experience using computers, so taking them through all those steps isn't realistic.


                      It's ashame really because the features are good. But I do think if Adobe are adding features to pdf then they should be universally compatable.


                      Does anybody know if there are any plans to make these features more compatable with browsers, or vice versa?



                      • 9. Re: Interactive pdfs
                        Maria964 Level 1


                        This http://blogs.adobe.com/pdfdevjunkie/web_designers_guide will not solve your problem but might help you with forcing people to download the pdf instaed of opening it on the browser.



                        • 10. Re: Interactive pdfs
                          Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                          To be honest - if you contact the major web browsers with your interactive pdf sample they might be able to issue a fix to support these things.


                          Other than that - I don't see it as Adobe's position to make it work in other browesers.


                          It's the other browsers, like FF, Chrome, and others that have chosen not to use Acrobat.


                          Let's not forget, Adobe authored the PDF format, and other people choose to ignore it as the standard reader, there's very little you can do.



                          I'd suggest getting in touch with the various Browsers via social medai or email.

                          • 11. Re: Interactive pdfs
                            cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                            Thanks guys,


                            I think i'll give that a try, see if the browsers can issue a fix


                            thanks for the advice

                            • 12. Re: Interactive pdfs
                              Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                              Just to give you an example.


                              Firefox released a new version that didn't allow a downloaded image to be dragged into Indesign.


                              I sent them a message on Twitter that this functionality was lost. Shortly after I got an update and now the Download window operates as it did before.


                              This was highly desireable as I would download from stock sites and dragging from the Browser Download window is a huge timesaver.



                              Obviously your issues are far more technical - but I believe that these companies behind browsers want the best for their users, customers and partners - therefore it would be in their interest to address these types of issues.

                              • 13. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                                Thanks Eugene, i will give them a try. i can see it being somethignt hey will all support in the future but i'll give them a push!

                                • 14. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                  Sandee Cohen Adobe Community Professional



                                  I have been an evangelist for interactive PDF documents since Acrobat 5 and have written two books and a chapter in another. So, I think I'm qualified to comment on the usefulness of interactive PDFs. Here is how I see the situation.


                                  Interactive PDF features are totally useful for anyone who will be showing their own PDFs. This can be salesmen showing their presentations to customers or inter-office presentations. These content authors can completely control what software plays the file. There is no problem for these PDFs and dismissing the entire genre of interactive documents cripples these users.


                                  Many companies distribute interactive PDFs to customers and clients. These PDF are mailed to the viewers on CDs or other media. I know one company that distributed USB drives with the press releases for their divisions containing interactive PDFs. It was not a problem to convince these users not to use Preview or other non-Adobe software. Adobe has made it possible for those companies to include an installed for Reader as part of the distribution. It won't guarantee that the viewers will use Reader, but it does make it easier for them to install it. http://www.adobe.com/products/reader/distribution.html


                                  Many companies, such as yours, post their interactive PDFs on web sites that allow the user to open the file through a browser. This is the worst-possible scenario as there is no way to include a Reader download. However, it does not make it impossible for companies to still take advantage of the interactive features. It just means that you need to alert your viewers that for the optimum viewing experience, they should install Reader. A link to the Adobe Reader installer page is suggested.


                                  Recently another problem has developed where users view PDFs on tablets. Their ability to view interactive features may be limited in some areas and available in others depending on the PDF viewer they use. It's truly the Wild West when it comes to interactive support. Even the Adobe Reader on an iPad doesn't support all features.


                                  However, even if someone doesn't follow the directions to (or can't) use an appropriate viewing application, there is no reason why the author of the content needs to take down the PDF from a web server.


                                  In your case the document contains some information that your company is required to provide viewers. The interactive features of the PDF should be included as enhancements to the information. But the basic legal information should be in a non-interactive format. For instance, if you add navigation buttons and hyperlinks to pages, you simply explain to users that they will have to use their mouse or keyboard to navigate or manually enter the links. This information can be provided on the first page of the PDF. These are several ways to create this so it is incorporated into the design of the document.


                                  However, completely ripping out all the interactive features for a PDF and complaining that Adobe shouldn't even have the features seems petulant and quarlesome. There is nothing wrong with the features.

                                  • 15. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                    BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                    One other point I like to make when this comes up. Look at the format

                                    you are exporting to. It is quite specific, Adobe PDF.


                                    While there are some excellent third party PDF Readers, anything

                                    outsider Reader or Acrobat is going to be a bit of a crapshoot.

                                    • 16. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                      cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                                      "petulant and quarlesome". Great, thaks for the help Sandee!


                                      The document was an application form and information booklet for school submissions, so the interactive elements were completely neccessary to the whole point of the pdf being designed the way it was. Simply asking the user to not use the interactive features wouldn't work, in this case.


                                      We also had content that was in scrollable text boxes to save on space as the size of the information we had to display was huge. So they don't work either in-browser or if people use third party readers. For this reason we had no choice but to remove the document.


                                      I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the features, i think they're great. We use them a lot for in-house stuff and, like you said, for things that we put on client servers etc. But in this case, to a wider public audience, the features need some consideration as to how the end user is trying to use them.


                                      I think you're wrong to say the features are fine, it's the users fault. Good design should make the experience for the user easier and more intuitive. If people are viewing pdfs in-browser and on 3rd party readers then Adobe should be considering this when coming up with new features, ensuring that they're universally accessable to the reality of their audience's viewing preferences.

                                      • 17. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                        BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                        So, in effect you're saying Adobe should dumb down the features because

                                        other parties can't keep up?


                                        To be clear, I agree it's a problem, but it's YOUR JOB as the designer

                                        to know what works with what and to make sure you design appropriately.

                                        • 18. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                          Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                          No - it's not up to Adobe to make sure other companies keep up to the features they develop.


                                          That's backward thinking.


                                          You need to reevaluate your design so that these interactive pdfs work with 3rd party pdf readers and they work in browsers.


                                          Adobe make the features work for their own Reader - you need to make your readers available of this - or redo the design work.



                                          Fact really is - you won't get all the interactive features for every person and on every browser.


                                          There has to be some leeway somewhere to accommodate this.



                                          Bob's right - it's the designers job to design to the specs that the viewers will be viewing at.



                                          If the design isn't working on all browsers - it's up to make that right.

                                          • 19. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                            cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                                            Sorry Bob, i think you've misunderstood me. I'm not saying Adobe should dumb down their features, i'm saying that they should consider the viewing habits of the end user when coming up with new features. If they come up with a feature that only works for, say, 10% of the audience, then that feature needs consideration as to how it is delivered or programmed so that it's more USER-FRIENDLY.


                                            You're correct, it is my job as the designer to design appropriately. Following the sell from Adobe on their interactive elements in pdf at an Adobe conference last year i assumed the interactive elements were universally readable, just as all pdfs are in all readers, pdf being an ISO standard.


                                            Don't get me wrong, if viewed in Adobe reader then i think the elements are great.


                                            I guess you have to learn somehow. I'll restrict the interactive elements now to inhouse stuff, not worth the risk or embarrassment of including it in client work only for their users to point out its failings when the elements don't work in a browser. After all, the end user only cares about whether something works for them or not. Something I think most of the people who have replied here are forgetting for some reason.

                                            • 20. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                              Sandee Cohen Adobe Community Professional



                                              You're right. I should not have used the word "petulant and quarrelsome." I apologize.


                                              Meanwhile, knowing that the interactive features are an application form and information booklet for school submissions, helps me understand your problems.


                                              However, a quick search on the web did show a similar application form.




                                              The Michigan Green schools has a similar PDF document, but provides wrong instructions for Mac users and points them to a Word document.




                                              However, I did find many university graduate schools that have created HTML-based application products. The similarity of their processes indicates that there is a company that helps them set up this service. You might want to investigate it.


                                              However, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of forms that are posted on the web. The US Internal Revenue Service has hundreds of interactive forms.




                                              Obviously they have managed to overcome the problems you have.

                                              • 21. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                Willi Adelberger Most Valuable Participant

                                                What I now often do, is to assamble an interactive PDF of any kind into a PDF Portfolio. If someone opens the PDF with an application other than Reader or Acrobat he will se a standard cover sheet (you can change it if you want a better one) which tells him to open this file in Adobe Reader and Acrobat and supplies I link to download the free Reader. So the user realize that he uses a Reader which does not support fully functionality.

                                                • 22. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                  Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                  I do think it really comes down to designing the file for the audience who is reading it.


                                                  There's no way you can proof a metallic ink on screen - so me designing a beautiful brochure with gold and sliver metalic inks and then asking people to interact with this design on screen and expecting them to be able to view it the same way that I want them to view it in print.


                                                  It wouldn't be fair to me to ask Adobe to make sure you add some glitter effects to files exported using metallic inks so my online readers can get the same effect my print viewers got.



                                                  There has to be some realisims here - and some things will have to be adjusted so that people with different viewing capablities, different browsers and different pdf readers all get similar experiences.



                                                  Just the way some Browsers don't display HTML 5 very well - you can't expect the World Wide Web Consortium to restrict the HTML5 language because some browsers don't support it.


                                                  There's no need to hinderence the development of a product simply because some people haven't adopted all the technologies.


                                                  You simply have to design your HTML5 pages to be compliant with no HTML5 browsers. You have design your Metallic Ink print brochures to have a similar experience online.


                                                  And you have to design your interactive PDFs to be compliant with various web browsers and their PDF readers.

                                                  • 23. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                    cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                                                    Eugene - no browsers are compliant with interactive pdfs, that's my point - these features are pointless when designing a pdf to be hosted onine because once a user tries to open it in any browser all of the interactive elements are disabled. I guess the browsers will catch up eventually but i was just seeing if anybody could offer a solution for now.


                                                    Sandee - the forms you've linked haven't overcome the problems i'm pointing out, they have encountered the same problem. The last one, for instance, is a form - and I can view that as a form. But none of the fields are editable because the browser has disabled these features. That is the same problem i'm having with my interactive form. people can view it fine. But they can't fill it in on screen and submit it via the submit button, because these features only work for a small number of people who are actually using Adobe products.


                                                    I appreciate all the advice but i do think people are missing my point slightly on this one,



                                                    • 24. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                      Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                      cr41gsc0tt wrote:


                                                      Eugene - no browsers are compliant with interactive pdfs, that's my point - these features are pointless when designing a pdf to be hosted onine because once a user tries to open it in any browser all of the interactive elements are disabled. I guess the browsers will catch up eventually but i was just seeing if anybody could offer a solution for now.



                                                      That's not correct.


                                                      The browsers opt to use their own PDF reader - but the user can change this in the Browser settings to use Acrobat.


                                                      Browsers ideally should give the user the option of which PDF reader to use.


                                                      It's not Adobe's fault that browsers opt to force their PDF readers on the user.


                                                      It's up to the the supplier of the file format to offer the best solution to view the files.



                                                      What are you going to do when you get people opening your PDF they download in Scribus, Inkscape, Illustrator etc.


                                                      Should all these programs also support all the solutions you want them to simply because someone opened the PDF in the wrong program?



                                                      Not at all - it's up to you to supply the information on the best way to view the files.



                                                      It's not Adobe's fault that 3rd party pdf files and browsers don't work with interactive pdfs.



                                                      Your anger and points are misdirected - aboutturn and fire in the other direction.

                                                      • 25. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                        TᴀW Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                        I don't think people are missing your point, but I do think people are

                                                        puzzled by your attitude that Adobe has to be concerned by the way 3rd

                                                        parties implement their imitation Adobe PDF readers. I know I am.


                                                        Anyway, now you are familiar with the situation, and you know that the

                                                        full capabilities a PDF can offer can be enjoyed only when the PDF is

                                                        viewed in Adobe's own (desktop/laptop but not tablet etc.) PDF reader.

                                                        So you're now in a position to decide whether PDF is the right format

                                                        for you.


                                                        Adobe cannot take the blame for other people's assumptions, presumptions

                                                        and/or ignorance.

                                                        • 26. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                          cr41gsc0tt Level 1

                                                          They can be more aware of how their audience are viewing the files that include their features. After all, what's the point of having the best feature in the world if it's only accessable to the small minority who use one out of hundreds of ways to view it. I don't think Adobe is wrong, i just think they need to consider how to make the amazing features more universally accessable. They will in time, the interactive elements are pretty new in the grand scheme of things. Will you all say they were wrong to make these features more universal when they do?

                                                          • 27. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                            Sandee Cohen Adobe Community Professional



                                                            OK, now I'm getting a better understanding of what you are trying to do.


                                                            I have no problem entering information in the form fields. I also have no problem using hyperlinks or buttons to navigate. The fact that you and your client do makes me wonder about your workflow.


                                                            However, once I do fill out the form fields, there is little I can do to email the completed PDF back to its author which would be you. This is very frustrating.


                                                            Now, in my browser (Chrome on the Mac), there is a little navigator icon that contains an icon for a disk. This is generally recognized as the icon for Saving. When I click that icon, the file downloads to my computer and I have no problem filling out the form, printing the form, or mailing the form back to you AS LONG AS I HAVE THE ADOBE READER!


                                                            You can easily fix that by including a link for your viewers to download the Adobe Reader. And instructions as to how to make sure the file opens in Reader.


                                                            So, it is necessary, as many companies do, to instruct the user as to how to use the interactive forms. The IRS has an extremely long set of instructions. http://www.irs.gov/uac/Downloading-and-Printing But they are anal compulsive and have to cover all the bases.


                                                            Once your form has been downloaded, all the interactive features are available.


                                                            Now, you've got to admit if the IRS has managed to work with interactive documents, and its run by civil servants, your organization should be able to do something similar.

                                                            • 28. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                              Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                              How do you not understand this?


                                                              Adobe basically invented PDFs.


                                                              They have authored the application to view PDFs.


                                                              They have introduced brilliant things, like interactive, forms etc. to this format.


                                                              They upgraded they're PDF reader.



                                                              Now - other people are making PDF readers. And other people are not including the interactive side of things.



                                                              If you want people to use your Adobe created interactive forms then you need to provide a link for people to


                                                              Download and install Adobe Reader

                                                              Download the file to view it correctly

                                                              or Instructions to enable Acrobat in their Browser.

                                                              • 29. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                                BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                                                I'll repeat it again. You are exporting an ADOBE PDF.


                                                                There's nothing all that new about interactive PDF. I remember creating

                                                                forms 10 years ago.


                                                                It is not Adobe's responsibility to "make the amazing features more

                                                                universally accessable." It is your responsibility to educate yourself,

                                                                your clients and the eventual recipient of the file on how to best view it.


                                                                Let me point out that we're not being argumentative just for the sake of

                                                                it. This is an important conversation to have and I'm glad you brought

                                                                it up.

                                                                • 30. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                                  BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                                                  And let's not forget that while Adobe may have invented the format it is

                                                                  now under the ISO umbrella.

                                                                  • 31. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                                    Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                                    At the same time too though Bob - browsers shouldn't be able to automatically set your default application to their own brand.


                                                                    It should really be given an option of which PDF viewer to use.


                                                                    Much like what happens on my phone when I try to open a video it offers, the inbuilt Video player, YouTube or whatever else I have installed.


                                                                    I put this down to Browsers being unfair and pushing their software on people who don't know any better.


                                                                    I'm sure there are laws about this sort of thing?


                                                                    Again though it's not Adobe's responsibility to make the PDFs more universally accepted - they have enough to do with this format.


                                                                    It really is the browsers responsibiity and 3rd party PDF readers responsibility to get it working.



                                                                    And they don't do this - so the OP needs to educate the people downloading the files on

                                                                    • the limiations in other browers
                                                                    • expecations on tablets
                                                                    • instructions to download adobe reader
                                                                    • instructoins to enable Acrobat in the browser
                                                                    • and other things mentioned here
                                                                    • 32. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                                      BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                                                      I have never made any choices about it but Chrome uses the Adobe plugin

                                                                      to read PDFs here as does Internet Explorer 10.

                                                                      • 33. Re: Interactive pdfs
                                                                        Eugene Tyson Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                                        Found this online


                                                                        http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4122061/javascript-detect-adobe-reader-plugin-for-brows er


                                                                        It will detect what PDF browser is on in the browser.



                                                                        Might be useful for the OP to include on their site - and be part of a solution.