How to create a table of contents in adobe pdf

Adobe Acrobat Pro won’t generate a Table of Contents (TOC) automatically from an existing PDF. However, the program does allow you to create TOCs manually, using either Bookmarks or Internal Links. Bookmarks allow your users to choose from a list of links to jump to predefined pages and page views in the PDF. The Create Link option lets you add “hot” clickable links within the actual PDF content. These links, when clicked, jump the user to specific places in the PDF.

Open the PDF in which you want to create bookmarks. Click the “Bookmarks” button (the page icon, second from the top on the far left side of the document window) to open the Bookmarks pane.

Go to the first place in the PDF where you want to add a bookmark. (Usually, you would create your bookmarks on titles, headings and subheadings.)

Select the text you want to bookmark. (Acrobat generates the bookmark name from the text you select.) Click the “New Bookmark” button (the second icon from the right, at the top of the Bookmarks pane).

Continue adding Bookmarks to your pages, repeating the two previous steps.

Generate a PDF from an existing source document. Note that this document should already have the TOC pages and text included in the content. (Some programs, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign can generate TOCs automatically. To save time, allow the source application to create the TOC for you.) Open the PDF in Acrobat Pro.

Scroll to the TOC pages in the PDF and select the first entry you want to make hot. Right-click the selected text, and then choose “Create Link” from the flyout menu to open the Create Link dialogue box.

Click the “Link Type” drop-down in the Create Link dialogue box and choose “Invisible Rectangle.” Make sure the “Go to a page view” radio button is selected, and then Click “Next.” The Create Go To View dialogue box displays.

Scroll in the PDF to the text corresponding with the TOC entry, and click in the text. Click the “Set Link” button in the Create Go To View dialogue box.

Repeat the three previous steps for each of your TOC entries.


You can create a TOC (or outline) hierarchy—headings indented under titles, subheadings indented under headings, and so on—from your bookmarks like this: Select the bookmark entries you want to demote, and then drag them up to the parent bookmark. For example, select the child subheading bookmarks for a parent heading and drag them up to the parent heading bookmark. Acrobat automatically demotes and indents the bookmarks. Some source programs allow you to create bookmarks automatically while generating the PDF, when you use paragraph styles to format text. (However, the source program must specifically support this feature, and many don’t) In Word and InDesign, for example, simply apply the default styles, such as “Heading 1,” “Heading 2,” and so on, to your headings and subheadings. When you generate the PDF, the source program creates the corresponding bookmarks, complete with hierarchical indentations.


Bookmarks don’t display or print corresponding page numbers. They're not much use in PDFs designed for printing.

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About the Author

A writer for more than 20 years, William Harrel has authored 19 books, including two titles in the "For Dummies" series. He has also contributed articles to magazines such as "Computer Shopper," "PC World," "Home Office Computing," "Windows Magazine," "MacWorld," "Compute!" and many others.