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Making InDesign Buttons with Hyperlinks

Jennifer wrote:

I am trying to make an interactive PDF using buttons and rollovers. I set up the rollover (which works just fine). However in the rollover state, I have text that I would like to use as a hyperlink to navigate to a specific page, and the hyperlinks are not working!

This is an interesting problem, because InDesign’s interface doesn’t always make it clear how to create certain interactive features. In this case, it sounds as though you assigned a hyperlink to the text with the Hyperlinks panel. That may be logical, but it’s doomed to failure because the hyperlink is being lost inside the button object. That is, when you export a PDF, InDesign is creating two objects: The one with the hyperlink and the one with the button. The button sits on top of the hyperlink, so the person viewing it can never “click through” to the hyperlink. Frustrating!

Instead, if you want to make a button that triggers a hyperlink to a Web page, it’s better to assign that action using the Button Options dialog box.

Here’s how you do it in CS2 or CS3: After making the button (either by choosing Object > Interactive > Convert to Button or using the Button tool), double-click on the edge of the button object to open the Button Options dialog box (or choose object > interactive > button options). Then click on the Behaviors tab and choose Go to URL from the Behavior pop-up menu. Type in the URL, click the Add button, then click OK.

Now the button itself will trigger the hyperlink, and you don’t need to use the Hyperlinks panel at all. Also, don’t forget to turn on the Interactive Elements checkbox in the Export PDF dialog box! Without that, the buttons don’t work at all.

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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82 Comments on “Making InDesign Buttons with Hyperlinks

  1. I am creating a document consisting of 12 chapters. I have created a master page that includes a layer for navigation buttons that take you to each chapter in the document. The buttons work great in the exported pdf on the chapter in which I created the buttons, but when I copy & paste them to another chapter, the links do not work. I also tried placing the chapters in a book and synchronizing the chapters, but I get the same result. I noticed in your earlier post, you stated that this is an issue. Do you know of a solution? I am using CS4. Any help would be greatly appreciated, as it would be extremely labor intensive to recreate all the buttons in each chapter. Thank you.

  2. I am moving from ID CS4 to ID CS5, and have encountered a problem with interactive buttons in the PDFs generated from CS5.

    I have 3 buttons at the bottom of a master page – Prev Page, Next Page, and Index. None of the buttons are functioning in the PDF made from CS5. They function correctly in the PDF generated from the same file in CS4.

    In the PDF from CS5, the buttons do not change during rollover (text in button should disappear), in fact the cursor in the PDF does not change to the finger cursor when over the button. I am using a text anchor on the first page of the index as the hyperlink from the button, with the action to Go To Destination Index, and the go to next/previous page action for those buttons.

    Any thoughts on why my buttons aren’t acting like buttons in the PDF?

  3. @Don: Are you exporting as PDF (Interactive)? In CS5 they split off interactive vs. print pdf into two different dialog boxes.

    @Michele: Are you using “go to page number” or “go to text anchor” or something like that? In general, you may need to paste the buttons in, then fix the link for each one. Yes, it’s a hassle. It’s getting more frustrating to create multi-document publications, so I try to keep everything in one document when I can.

  4. @Michele, I have had the same problem you described. I spent probably an entire day trying to fix it, and then wound up just creating the buttons in Acrobat. It was a pain, but it worked. So, if you have one PDF with buttons that work correctly, use those. Export the whole book without the navigation buttons. Open that big PDF in Acrobat. Copy the buttons from the PDF chapter where they work. Paste them into the new PDF of the whole book. Double check them to make sure they work. You may need to reset their locations. Once you have them working in Acrobat, duplicate them onto every page.

    It SHOULD work in InDesign, but in my experience, this method is less time consuming and a lot less frustrating. It works as expected. Good luck!

  5. I have created an e-catalog with majority of the products converted into bottons and hyperlinked to the website. When I exported it into swf(as I need it flipped), none of the hyperlinks work but when exported as interactive pdf the hyperlinks were working. Any help? Thanks in advance.

  6. @tristan – When you export a swf file and try and test it on your local machine, you may get a security warning and/or the links will not work. To fix this problem, just place the swf file (and any other asset – html, etc) on a server and test from there. It should work.

  7. I created an animated roll-down menu with five buttons. One of the buttons is set to link to page 4 in the document. I selected the five buttons, exported the selection as a SWF, placed it back into my InDesign document, exported as an interactive PDF, but when I do this I get a message that says, “This document has buttons that link to pages that do not exist. These actions will not be exported.” Sure enough, the animations are still there, but the button doesn’t link to page 4 anymore. What’s up with that?

  8. I have a 12 chapter document that has navigation buttons in each chapter that take you to another chapter. All of my buttons work fine after exporting to a pdf, but when I put the documents on my web page, any document larger than 1 MB will not open (actually, they will open eventually if you hit the back button or navigate to it through the buttons). This is through Internet Expolorer 8. I created my document in InDesign CS4. Does anyone know of a solution to this issue? Thank you.

  9. I use ID CS5 and I have problems with exporting buttons with hyperlink to PDF file. Link works in preview but after exportnig it does not. I checked interactive ,…. Please help me!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you.

  10. Hi.
    I follow David Blatner´s instructions succesfully. However in CS5.5, I can´t find button options… instead i discover there is an option: Go to Destination, and then you can select the anchor previously created, dont forget to name each anchor in order to know wich destination you need.

    @fedja, i had same trouble, try to follow David´s instructions (posted at beginning on September 29th, 2008 ? 12:58 pm) also check if you had text over the button that you group them before converting a button or make the button from a text box…

  11. Just had a read through this (can’t remember if someone else mentioned it) .. and looked up the issue on other help sites. Found the answer Gabriel Make your buttons (either in the Master or directly on the page). When you convert to a PDF make sure you go File>Export>Interactive PDF.. should work.

    Good luck!

  12. When I create buttons in CS5, give them an action ‘go to URL’ and paste in the website address in the ‘URL’ field, it works fine in preview. But when I export to a swf-file, it doesn’t.
    Can anyone give me a tip about this?

  13. I had all the buttons and links working when converting from InDesign CS5 to Interactive PDF. Now that I have upgraded to CS6 – The buttons are not working. The hyperlinks are working, but the real problem are the buttons. I have checked all of the information for each button. Even recreated each button and each bookmark, but it is still the same thing when creating an Interactive PDF – the first page works, but nothing after that. Help! I work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and we have many of these kinds of interactive PDFs as calendars and I need to have these up and running.

  14. I am currently building a guidelines document for the way we work here in my department which I am building in indesign 5.5 I have used indesign for many years now since version 2 and I have never used buttons or hyperlinks in my documents. due to the type of the work I was doing – however in this case to make them easy to navigate through I am attempting to use them and give it a go. the problem I am having is I would like a link or a button on certain pages that navigates to or opens up a folder on our server where other reference files are kept – firstly is this possible and if so how is the best way to build this into my indesign document?
    thanks in advance

  15. Hi, I have a question for you David. I hope you can help me. I use indesign CS5.

    I’ve created a interactive PDF with rollovers, 9 pages to be precise. My question is how to link a rollover, that’s situated on page 1, to page 4 in the PDF. I’ve tried everything: hyperlinks, buttons, actions etc. but nothing helps.

    Looking forward to your answer!

    • @Niels: When you want to navigate (jump to) a particular page in an interactive PDF, you need to use a text anchor. You put the text anchor where you want to jump to, then use a hyperlink to jump there.

  16. Dear David and Linda,

    Please-please help me with this. I really need interactive buttons to work for slideshows and for the objects to appear on roll over action. They do, very nicely in InDesign preview but stop working once exported into PDF. The only thing that is working in my PDF is navigation system (page to page) and also video buttons (play/stop).

    Is there any secret that I don’t know that could help me to fix those buttons and make them work in PDF?
    I hope there is,

  17. Hi David
    I have text containing foreign words and want to give a translation for each instance where it appears in the text. I could use footnotes but I would prefer “pop-ups” in the form of hidden buttons that reveal on roll-over or click when the mouse touches the foreign word. Is there a way to do this without creating a text anchor out of the foreign word? (prefer to have the foreign word stay editable)

  18. Hi,

    I have made an interactive PDF it works fine in preview and fine once saved on my desktop.
    But, when I email the interactive PDF the buttons do not work.

    Its basically a news letter and the buttons are for social media, so twitter Facebook etc. So it obviously can be done. So not sure where I am going wrong. Please advise

    • Daisie: I would recommend using hyperlinks (in the Hyperlinks panel) instead of buttons. Hyperlinks are more reliable on a wide variety of PDF readers.

  19. David (or anyone else),

    I have a .swf file with several rollover buttons. I want to add multiple email hyperlinks to each button. I am using InDesign CC. Is this possible?

    Help please!

    • You should be able to use more than one Go to URL action (in the buttons & forms panel). I don’t even have Flash installed on my laptop anymore, so it’s not working for me. When I try it as a fixed layout epub (instead of SWF), only the last url works, sadly.

  20. Thanks for you fast reply David!

    I seem to be having the problem of the links being covered by something because they are a part of a button. I can make the hyperlinks work in the document if they are not part of a button.

    To further explain my file I have a map and when you hover over the different regions a rollover button appears with photos and names of the people responsible for that region. I want to be able to make their names email hyperlinks.

    Is this still possible? If so, do you have any idea of what I am doing wrong here?

      • Place another button over the text in the button and give go to url action.
        Also make the new button “hidden until triggered” with triggering action along with text you need the hyperlink…

        Does this help??

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