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To Save File Size, Make Buttons in Acrobat Instead of InDesign

As Steve Werner recently pointed out, there are a lot of issues InDesign users need to think about when making interactive buttons. Here’s one more: File size. I’ve meant to write this up for over a year, ever since PDF guru Ted Padova showed me the evils of InDesign navigation buttons. In short: When you put a button on a master page (such as a “next page” navigation button) of a 100 page document, then export a PDF file, InDesign duplicates that button 100 times. The program is not smart enough to say: “Hey, I’m going to use this next page button 100 times, once on each page, so just include it once and then refer to it 99 more time.” The result is a significantly larger PDF than you need.

So, when creating nav buttons that will appear on every page, consider instead just making one of them in InDesign, then duplicating them in Acrobat Pro. It’s not hard to do:

After creating the PDF from InDesign, open it in Acrobat and select the Tools > Advanced Editing > Select Object Tool. Select the button on the page. Then right-click on it and choose Duplicate from the context menu. You can choose which pages you want the object duplicated on (you probably want to choose All).

If you have more than just a couple buttons, you can make this go even faster by selecting all the buttons first. Annoyingly, it doesn’t really look like more than object is selected, but that’s just an acrobat user interface problem. Alternately, you can choose Forms > Add or Edit Fields and duplicate the objects from the Fields pane… though I find that a little cumbersome.

When you save your document (I suggest Save As), you should see hardly any difference in file size. But compared to a PDF that had the buttons on the master page, it’s much smaller.

(In a sample test of a very simple 30-page text-heavy document with 2 nav buttons on each page, the buttons-on-master-page version was 224 Kb, and the buttons-duplicated-in-Acrobat version was only 164 Kb. It’s not a huge difference, but the more pages and the more buttons the bigger the benefit!)

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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6 Comments on “To Save File Size, Make Buttons in Acrobat Instead of InDesign

  1. Branislav, you are absolutely correct that InDesign attempts to turn master page items into Form XObjects (it also does this when making datamerge pdfs)… however, it doesn’t appear to apply to “field” objects (buttons) that are on master pages. Ooops!

  2. I am in need of fast help. I created a document in ID thinking I could then use the Hyperlinks tool and link to PDFs (wrong) found out not, made ID pages for all my hyperlinks, linked them up, made the PDF, it didn’t work well at all. Then I did the above, created the hyperlinks in Acrobat 7 professional. Works great on my computer (MAC) not at all when I send it to anyone else. How can I embed the links? What am I missing? I have searched the web and cannot find anything about this. Of course a rush project…Judy

  3. I tried moving all of my buttons from InDesign to Acrobat, but I I found that for a 13 MB file, it only saved maybe about 1 MB. I had 21 buttons on the the page, each with 2 states.

    Something that Acrobat did that I wasn’t expecting is that button actions are not global within a document. So even if I duplicate a button onto every page, I can edit that button on page 1, nothing changes to that button on all the remaining pages. It appears that Acrobat creates full duplicate copies of the button on every page, rather than simply referencing a single instance of the button. Am I understanding it correctly? If not, why when I edit the button, doesn’t it change on all the remaining pages?

    How does Acrobat handling of buttons differ than Indesign’s? Why the difference in file size?

  4. Can you edit the buttons that you made by duplicating without making changes to each button separately?
    If you mistakenly duplicated a bunch of buttons, can you remove/delete them?

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