Interactive pdf readers

It turns out there are a lot of options out there when choosing a pdf reader for interactive pdfs and none of them are foolproof.

From reading I’ve done, PDF Expert ($10.49AU) is the most reliable when it comes to playing video embedding in a pdf, but different readers (e.g. Goodreader, Acrobat etc.) all have their strengths and weaknesses. Some will drop the video but keep the buttons, some will drop out hyperlinks but keep form fields etc. It’s all about doing a comparison based on what sort of pdfs you intend to create.

A recommendation from Steve Werner at

For interactive PDF files which are to be viewed on a tablet device, you need to reduce your expectations that interactivity will be able to be viewed by every viewer. I’d keep things simple, and don’t make your presentation depend on showing all the interactivity. But Adobe Reader for iOS is very disappointing, and I cannot recommend it. GoodReader ($4.99), ezPDF Reader ($2.99) and PDF Expert ($9.99) are well rated and support many more features.

As my pdfs will be reader on different operating systems I’m going to trial PDF Expert. I’d like to be able to maximise interactivity where possible so we’ll see how this goes.

It seems to be a case of timing here – digital publishing, even though it’s been around for a while, is still relatively young and the many bugs which come up along the way are all indicators that more time and development is needed across the board in this area. From a designer’s perspective I guess it’s a case of working with what I have, doing the research, and waiting until new updates start to solve these problems!

Interactive PDF design for ipads – further notes

To upload to portable device use Google drive, drop box or itunes.

The above discoveries relate to interactive pdfs opened on the ipad using different apps:

iBooks –  hyperlinks work, video and buttons don’t, form fields gone.

Adobe Reader – choose doc mode (top right – single page or continuous)

– Blue highlighting of links but all work, swipe to go back and forward, doesn’t support video (check updated versions), buttons don’t work.

PDF Expert app – slight cropping, links don’t have blue if set in preferences, video works, buttons don’t work.  Page forward and backward buttons work. Form fields will work but will submit whole page (unless single page view).

Trouble shooting issues:

Blown out file sizes

Export to interactive pdf – JPEG Quality – Medium, Resolution 72, Compression (JPEG lossy) Experiment with alternate resolutions as don’t want to compromise quality.

Acrobat – pdf optimiser settings (File/Save As/Optimized PDF. “Audit Space Usage” to see what’s taking up space.)

Form fields Tools/Content/Add or Edit Interactive Object/Select Object – Can limit characters in this field.

Control alignment of text.

“Combo box” (a drop box which allows you to choose for a list or add in custom text) doesn’t allow custom text from InDesign (bug) but can be fixed in Acrobat  – click on it, go Options/allow user to enter custom text.

Can also edit area for links.

Cleaning up unwanted bookmarks etc.

Adding bookmarks

Create in InDesign

Bookmarks under Bookmarks panel

Bookmarks get automatically created when doing a table of contents

Nest by dragging on top of each other.

Export to PDF

Info sourced from “Creating Interactive PDF Magazines” by Mike Rankin.