Creating navigation notebook tabs for PDFs from Word Part 1

Although it's somewhat redundant to add "hotspots" in PDFs, some technical writers use visual navigation aides in their publications because it's attractive and is easier to use on tablets and 2-in-1 laptops than text hyperlinks where you have to zoom in.

This PDF User Manual for the Sony NEX series of mirrorless cameras has notebook tabs for tapping and clicking through major sections of the document.

You don't need Microsoft Publisher, InDesign, or CorelDraw to produce PDFs with visual navigation cues. Microsoft Word has long had the ability to add these fairly basic components to your Word document and retain them once they are exported to PDF.

Note: Image hotspots and interactive links in PDFs have been around as long as HTML 1.x. As noted, they can be useful for PDFs if the document is delivered and consumed via touch screen devices. For my part, I still prefer ordinary text hyperlinks, but I understand the resurgence of its use considering that today's generation of users think everything on a screen is designed to be tapped by a finger.

This article uses Microsoft Word 2016 to produce a document with classic "notebook tabs" (similar to the Sony NEX manual shown previously) that supplement the Bookmarks and the Table of Contents of the final output PDF.

To create a PDF with clickable notebook tabs:

1. For the purpose of this article, a page border is added to assist layout. The page border will be visible in the final PDF output.

Click Design > Page Borders to add a page border.

2. Adjust the margins of the document.

Since this example has the notebook tabs on the right, the Right Margin was adjusted to 0.17" which is the smallest margin a standard Word document will support.

Click Layouts > margins > Custom Margins to adjust the margin values.

Note: You can certainly force Word to have a smaller margin but this may push the objects and text outside the page borders in the resulting PDF.

3. Add the notebook tabs.

Click Insert > Shapes to add shapes to the document. Click the handles to rotate them in the proper direction.

For this article, the shapes that will be used as notebook tabs are aligned to the page border.

To duplicate a shape, select the shape, and then click CTRL+D.

To align the shapes, select the shapes, and then click Layout > Align > Distribute Vertically and if needed, Align > Align Right.

Continued in Creating navigation notebook tabs for PDFs from Word Part 2


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