Monday, 21 October 2019

Promoting and demoting Acrobat bookmarks

Adobe Acrobat has some cool functions that are extremely useful to manage files. One of those functions is the ability to bookmark places within the file.

When I have created a pdf file from - say - a Word document, all the navigation shortcuts within the document outline disappear with the conversion. This leaves us unable to move around a large pdf file as easily as we can in Word. However, all is not lost: we can recreate the outline structure by inserting bookmarks.

Simply open the file in Adobe Acrobat. If you cannot see the left-hand sidebar with the document navigation tools, key F4 to bring the sidebar up. Click on the ribbon icon to see the bookmark toolbar. To add a bookmark, simply click somewhere on the page, and click the "New bookmark" icon. If you want to add a heading, simply highlight the wording on the page and click the  "New bookmark" icon. You will see that the heading has been added in the left-hand sidebar outline.

I go through and add all the headings and pages I need to the outline first, which will automatically be at the top level. Then I go through and drag the most sub-ordinate ones under the level above, click the ">" symbol to hide all the sub-ordinate pages, then drag that cluster under the next level above.

Collapsing the chapters is the easiest way to move sections of the document around. Attempting to move sections with the structure expanded will not work. There is a trick to moving the bookmarks (view here), and while it is easy to demote bookmarks within the pdf hierarchy, it is quite tricky to promote them. We quite easily can end up with clusters of pages showing in the wrong place. 

When promoting and demoting, go step by step and use the Edit | Undo menu item if bookmarks have been incorrectly demoted when they should have been promoted. Unfortunately, if you have made two mistakes in a row, the most effective way to correct the error seems to be to delete the bookmarks that have ended up in the wrong place, and start again on this element.

There is another alternative when we want to promote a bookmark, and that is to collapse all the levels above, drag the bookmark out to a level at the same standard that you want it to show at, drop it into position, then - if it changes level and location appropriately - drag and drop it back to where you want it to be. But we must collapse the levels in the area of the document that we are working to only show the level that we want the bookmark to also be at. If there are lower levels showing around it, the moved bookmark will imitate what is around it.

I hope this advice proves useful!


  • References: TeachUComp (26 March 2018). Acrobat Pro DC Modifying and Organizing Bookmarks - Adobe Acrobat Pro DC Training Tutorial Course. Retrieved from

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