Embed links in PDFs from Word

Do you work in Word, use hyperlinks to various Web destinations, and prefer to send your finished output as PDFs (so that anyone on any platform can read your document)? If so, you’ve probably run into an annoyance with Word and the built-in PDF feature in OS X—hyperlinks are not recognized and coded as such when creating the PDF. Depending on what PDF reader your audience is using, they’ll find that either some or none of the hyperlinks will function, even though they all look like they should (that is, they’re blue and underlined).

Consider this very simple sample document:

There’s this cool company that makes iPods and Macs and stuff. Macworld , whose website is here…


…often writes about their stuff.

If your readers are using Adobe’s free Reader PDF viewer, then some of your hyperlinks will work—the ones that are actually URLs, starting with http://. (In the example above, that’d be the macworld.com link.) That’s because Reader includes an on-the-fly technology to convert those URLs into actual hyperlinks. But if you’ve used Word’s Insert -> Hyperlink menu to create links to normal words, as in the “cool company” link above, Reader won’t see those as clickable links.

If your readers are using Preview on OS X, they’re completely out of luck—none of the links will work at all, even though they’ll all show up as blue and underlined. And the chances are very high that if your readers are running OS X, they’ll be using Preview and not Reader to view your PDFs. Readers on Windows and Linux will probably see similar results if they’re not using the Adobe Reader. Bummer. So what can you do about it?

If you’ve got Pages 2, there’s a very simple solution at hand. Open your original Word document in Pages 2, and choose File -> Print. Click the PDF button in the Print dialog, then select Save as PDF and pick a name and save location for the PDF. When Pages finishes printing, you’re done. Close the Word document (don’t save the changes, if you’re asked) and quit Pages.

The PDF you’ve just created can be sent to anyone on any platform, and the embedded links will all work as expected—assuming your recipient’s reader supports links in PDFs to begin with, of course. Pages, unlike Word, embeds the actual links into the PDF, for both obvious and non-obvious linked items.

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