Navigating PDF files with Bookmarks and Links

We love PDF here at Debenu. Sure, it’s green and searchable, but today, we want to focus on one of its other assets: its navigability, with a focus on bookmarks and links.

First up, there are built-in features of any given reader (e.g., Adobe Reader or the built-in viewer in Debenu PDF Tools). Typically, these will let you change pages one at a time or more quickly via a scroll bar. Often, they will let you jump to specific pages. These are basically the electronic analogs of turning individual pages or flicking through quickly with your thumb. You can make things easier for your readers with PDF, though. Indeed, cognizant of this fact, many regulatory bodies now require content providers to make their electronic documents easy to navigate.

“How can we make it easier to navigate our PDFs?” I hear you cry. The answer is by using bookmarks and links. In their simplest form, PDF bookmarks are similar to physical bookmarks. They are immediately obvious — in Adobe Reader, bookmarks appear in a pane in the left-hand side of the screen — and link directly to a particular part of a document. Here, PDF has an advantage over paper, though, because the bookmark can link to a separate document, web site, or even execute some JavaScript. When a bookmark points to a PDF, it actually links to a particular view, which means a location, zoom level and layout. That means that if you want to link to a particular diagram, for example, you can set a bookmark to zoom in on the page to give readers an optimal view of the figure.

Links are pretty similar to bookmarks. In fact, they have precisely the same options in terms of what they can do and where they can take the reader. The real difference is that, while bookmarks sit beside the document content (i.e., visible in a separate panel), links form an integral part of that content. Links can be overlaid on any image or text elements within a PDF document. If a link is located on page 5 and the reader is looking at page 2, they will not see it. By contrast, they will have equal access to all bookmarks regardless of which page they are currently viewing.

“So how do we apply and use bookmarks and links?” Funny you should ask, actually. As a matter of fact, Debenu Quick PDF Library can be used to create and edit bookmarks and links individually or in bulk, allowing developers to build these features into their own applications. Bookmarks and links can be manually created and edited in Adobe Acrobat, and this functionality is significantly augmented when used with our plug-in, Debenu PDF Aerialist. Using Debenu PDF Aerialist, you can do all sorts of fancy things like generating hyperlinked tables of contents, creating, editing or updating links and bookmarks en masse, automatically linking every instance of a keyword or auditing and validating links. You can also use Debenu PDF Aerialist to manipulate PDFs in bulk through batch processing. If you want to manipulate bookmarks or links without Acrobat, you can do so using the advanced scripting features (accessed via Advanced > PDF Script) of Debenu PDF Tools Pro.

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