How to set PDF reading order in InDesign?

Participant ,
Jun 28, 2017 Jun 28, 2017

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I'm trying to create an accessible PDF. I've tagged my elements in InDesign using styles. I've set the order of my content in the Articles panel. When I export my file to PDF, why is the reading order not correct? Is there a way to set the reading order of the PDF I create from within InDesign? Or do I have to redo the reading order within Acrobat every time I make a PDF?

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New Here , Aug 14, 2017 Aug 14, 2017
The Reading Order panel in Acrobat is set by the Layers panel in InDesign. It goes from bottom to top (i.e., the layer on the bottom is at the top of the reading order). Setting this can be very tedious, but it is still easier than remediating it in Acrobat.Using the layers panel to set the reading order can cause a problem if you have text that is layered on top of a picture, but for some reason need the text to be read before the picture's alt text (like if it's a heading for the picture). I d...

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 28, 2017 Jun 28, 2017

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Make it in a single text thread.

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Participant ,
Jul 18, 2017 Jul 18, 2017

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My stories are all threaded properly.

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Participant ,
Feb 03, 2021 Feb 03, 2021

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you can control the "read order" and the "tag order" by putting each text frame into InDesign's ARTICLES pane ...and SELECT the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF" option from the Articles pane drop-down menu. (see attached image.)

 

For threaded content, you only need to put the FIRST text frame inside the article pane.

 

The Articles pane allows you to select and drag the content into any order you choose. And, as long as you select the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF

Mary Helen Shuff | Art Director & Senior Graphic Designer | 508-Compliancy Coordinator | Forms Coordinator | Printing Liaison

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 19, 2021 Feb 19, 2021

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No!

The Article panel ONLY sets the TAG order, it does NOT set the READING order. This is set, as mentioned simply by  the LAYER order (bottom first, top items last). Don't confuse those two. As you mentioned already yourself the option in the fly out menu reads "Use for Tagging order" and not Reading order

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 29, 2017 Jun 29, 2017

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What version of InDesign? While things have gotten better, from what little I know of accessibility, even following every procedure you should in InDesign still forces some clean up work in Acrobat.

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Participant ,
Jul 18, 2017 Jul 18, 2017

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I'm using the latest versions of all of Adobe products.

One thing that helped me was checking off "Use for reading order in tagged PDF" in the flyout menu of the Articles panel. This has ordered the content in the Tags panel in Acrobat. HOWEVER, the Reading Order panel in Acrobat is still not correct and does not follow the article order I have assigned.

I suppose I could do "clean up" work in Acrobat, but my document is 28 pages and quite complex, and there is no undo button when reordering content in Acrobat.  And if I need to update the PDF file I will have to go through the reordering process in Acrobat all over again - which would take many hours.

I also tried reordering the items in the Structure pane to see if that helps but it does not.

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New Here ,
Aug 14, 2017 Aug 14, 2017

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The Reading Order panel in Acrobat is set by the Layers panel in InDesign. It goes from bottom to top (i.e., the layer on the bottom is at the top of the reading order). Setting this can be very tedious, but it is still easier than remediating it in Acrobat.

Using the layers panel to set the reading order can cause a problem if you have text that is layered on top of a picture, but for some reason need the text to be read before the picture's alt text (like if it's a heading for the picture). I don't have a solution for that other than to avoid it or ignore it.

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Participant ,
Feb 03, 2021 Feb 03, 2021

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Actually, you can control the "read order" and the "tag order" by putting each text frame into InDesign's ARTICLES pane ...and SELECT the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF" option from the Articles pane drop-down menu. (see attached image.)

 

For threaded content, you only need to put the FIRST text frame inside the article pane.

 

The Articles pane allows you to select and drag the content into any order you choose. And, as long as you select the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF

Mary Helen Shuff | Art Director & Senior Graphic Designer | 508-Compliancy Coordinator | Forms Coordinator | Printing Liaison

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Participant ,
Feb 03, 2021 Feb 03, 2021

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image attached.

Mary Helen Shuff | Art Director & Senior Graphic Designer | 508-Compliancy Coordinator | Forms Coordinator | Printing Liaison

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 19, 2021 Feb 19, 2021

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The Article panel ONLY sets the TAG order, it does NOT set the READING order. This is set, as mentioned simply by  the LAYER order (bottom first, top items last). Don't confuse those two. As you mentioned already yourself the option in the fly out menu reads "Use for Tagging order" and not Reading order 😉

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New Here ,
Jan 11, 2018 Jan 11, 2018

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I'm having the same issue. Although I just read in another post that, even though the reading order looks wrong in Acrobat, it actually reads in the correct order you've set in Articles. Which is beyond stupid.

If not, the Articles panel is useless and we just need to order our layers from bottom to top in reading order.

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Participant ,
Feb 03, 2021 Feb 03, 2021

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When using  InDesign's ARTICLES pane to control the "read order" and the "tag order" ..you must SELECT the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF" option from the Articles pane drop-down menu. (see attached image.)

 

For threaded content, you only need to put the FIRST text frame inside the article pane.

 

The Articles pane allows you to select and drag the content into any order you choose. And, as long as you select the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF

Mary Helen Shuff | Art Director & Senior Graphic Designer | 508-Compliancy Coordinator | Forms Coordinator | Printing Liaison

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 19, 2021 Feb 19, 2021

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Again, not true: The Article panel ONLY sets the TAG order, it does NOT set the READING order. This is set, as mentioned simply by  the LAYER order (bottom first, top items last). Don't confuse those two. As you mentioned already yourself the option in the fly out menu reads "Use for Tagging order" and not "Reading order"!

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Participant ,
Dec 18, 2019 Dec 18, 2019

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I've seen the same issue. And, like someone else posted, I've read that the screen readers read in the order of the TAGS menu. But, like you, it bothers me that my "read order" doesn't match my source file, my articles order nor the tags order in the PDF export. So, I remembered LONG ago, when InDesign wasn't as fleshed out in the ADA 508 compliancy as it is now, the only way I could control the ORDER was the order in which I placed my items on the page. So, current day work around = I found that if, in my source file, I "cut" (command X) each piece that is out of order, one-at-a-time, AND immediately "paste in place" back to the same spot, working with this cut/paste-in-place in the ORDER that I WANT my page to read, it fixes the read order in my exported PDF.  When I cut/paste-in-place each text frame piece (per page) one-at-a-time, it also pastes right back into the same place where it was in my articles pane (thank goodness!). THEN, when I export a PDF, everything is in the order that it should be: tags (check), read order (check)....good to go. If you do this work around IN your source file, you never have to touch/fix the PDF each time you export.

 

Personally, I think Adobe can delete the "read order" area in acrobat if the real order for screen readers uses the TAGS order. Don't need them both (especially if they are going to contradict one another).

Mary Helen Shuff | Art Director & Senior Graphic Designer | 508-Compliancy Coordinator | Forms Coordinator | Printing Liaison

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Participant ,
Feb 03, 2021 Feb 03, 2021

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FOLLOW UP: you can control the "read order" and the "tag order" by putting each text frame into InDesign's ARTICLES pane ...and SELECT the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF" option from the Articles pane drop-down menu. (see attached image.)

 

For threaded content, you only need to put the FIRST text frame inside the article pane.

 

The Articles pane allows you to select and drag the content into any order you choose. And, as long as you select the "Use for Tagging Order in Tagged PDF" option, the tags will be PERFECT on the PDF output.

Mary Helen Shuff | Art Director & Senior Graphic Designer | 508-Compliancy Coordinator | Forms Coordinator | Printing Liaison

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New Here ,
Feb 19, 2021 Feb 19, 2021

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Many good answers and tips. 

I've got a related problem, my footnotes (if that is the English term ...) does not end up in the right location in the reading order. I have a two-column document (one text-block divided into two columns) with footnotes at the bottom of each page. But after export to pdf the notes are mostly placed after the first column in the reading order, sometimes are directly after the H1 (no, no reference for the note in the H1 text). Since there are several notes on each page I really want them placed at the bottom of the page. I have so far dragged them to the right location in acrobat, but I really wish to have a way to achieve this in Indesign. Please help! 🙂

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 19, 2021 Feb 19, 2021

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You can repeat this, and I will also repeat: No! 

The Article panel ONLY sets the TAG order, it does NOT set the READING order. This is set, as mentioned simply by  the LAYER order (bottom first, top items last). Don't confuse those two. As you mentioned already yourself the option in the fly out menu reads "Use for Tagging order" and not Reading order.

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New Here ,
Feb 19, 2021 Feb 19, 2021

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Thank you Frans. Yes, I know very well the function of tag order.  I just thought that maybe someone knew a solution for how my problem could be fixed. Since it is an accessibility issue. Maybe I stepped out of topic. I apologize in that case. 

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Community Beginner ,
Mar 11, 2021 Mar 11, 2021

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I am new at this and find it very complicated. I need to fix a bunch of huge InDesign files. 

I don't quite get what is the difference between Reading order and Tag order. So I need to have the objects in the Articles arranged in the right order plus all the objects (ordered from the bottom) arranged again in the Layers panel. Frans, please help me understand the difference. 

Do I need to fix both orders in order to have a perfect accessible pdf?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 11, 2021 Mar 11, 2021

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Yes, sorry to say, you need to do both. In a way the Layer panel should be in 'reverse' order as the Article panel 😉

But there is more, you do not need to use the Article panel if the document is simple with a main textframe, like text reports etc.

Then there is Arifacting, Alt text, hyperlinks, colour contrat, fixes you need to make in Acrobat (as you can not do certain things directly in InDesign) etc.etc.

It takes time and much eye for detail.

You can do yourself a favor and take a class, or a online one, in English for instance Chad Chellius has a nice one on LinkedIn Learning. In Dutch, I can help you with online training 😉

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Community Beginner ,
Mar 11, 2021 Mar 11, 2021

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Thank you, Frans. I was watching a lot of Chad Cellius on Lynda Learning, he is very good. I did all that to my file: artifacts, alt text, paragraph style tag exporting, changed the layer order for the reading order.

I just don't understand, if the reading order is controlled by the layer order, what is the effect of the order of the objects from the Article do? Why do the tags need to be in order?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 11, 2021 Mar 11, 2021

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The reading, layer, order is used to display your document as plain text in Acrobat (reflow view) or alternative readers for people with difficulties; the tag, article, order is used by screen reading software that reads the document out loud. Would be handy right if that could be the same, but they aren't 😉

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Community Beginner ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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Thank you, Frans. It seems that we should talk to Adobe to improve Indesign:-) Just too many steps to follow. I have to go back to 20 years of 70 pages of Annual reports and other files... Not an easy task for me. And in Canada, we need to make everything accessible by June 30.

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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Yes, believe me: I know, lots and lots of work... don't even mention tables.

But the 'stacking order' as defined in Layers versus tags is something we see as well in other DTP apps, like Quark, same principle. It is not InDesign as such, it is more Acrobat that should be able to use the tag order, but that is not the way PDF's are structured in their stacking order.

So work with as few text frames as possible, anchor images where possible and keep your layers simple, may I use: do NOT even use more than one layer... I know, goes against everything we learned about using layers 😉

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