How to make your links clickable in PDF files

I recently purchased an e-book on-line, only to discover that the links that were embedded in the PDF didn’t actually work.

In some cases, that meant copying the URL into my browser, but in others the URL was not visible because a product or website name had been used as the link text.  When I contacted the author, they told me that “the links should be easy to find”.  Or in other words, go and use a search machine.

I requested a refund.

And yet it can be so simple to get right.

It does rather depend on what program you used to write the document and create the PDF file, but here are some simple tips:

  1. Use OpenOffice.org to write your e-book!  You can export your documents straight into PDF format and even add security features like a password or even disable copying and printing.  Both URLs and linked text get exported correctly in the current version (3.3).
  2. If you want to use Microsoft Office but don’t have a full version of Adobe Acrobat to create the PDF file, then try FreePDF.  As the name suggests, it’s free and can also cope with those security issues.  However it is installed as a printer driver, so it does not always get the hyperlinked text passed to it, meaning that only URLs and not words are linked.
  3. Don’t hyperlink words like you would in a blog post, either give the URL or use a footnote.  If you must link the words, then use a footnote as well so that readers can see where to go to, even if the link does not work properly.
  4. It can be good practise to put a list of the links at the end of the document.  This especially helpful if someone is reading it on a mobile device so that they don’t have to scroll to the footnotes.
  5. Consider using re-director services like MaxBlogPress Ninja Affiliate.  Not only does this mean that you can use affiliate links, but it makes the URLs simpler because they are all on one domain and if the real URL changes later then you just change it on your site in the ninja settings.
  6. Try out all of your links in the finished PDF file before you put it on-line!

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a blogger from Germany. He has written code for WordPress themes since 2006 and been creating websites since 1994.
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