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Use Page Transitions to Add Some Sizzle to Your PDF Presentations

Many of us send off presentations we create in InDesign as PDF files so they can be read by our colleagues, customers, or clients. But we can give them some extra sizzle by adding page transitions within InDesign CS4. Page transitions give visual sparkle by creating a “Powerpoint-like” effect when switching between pages. Page transitions have been available in Acrobat for many versions, but they always had to be added after creating the PDF file. In Acrobat 9 Pro, you must choose Advanced > Document Processing > Page Transitions. You also have no way to preview the appearance of the effects listed there.

Page transitions is one of the improved interactivity controls (along with hyperlinks and buttons) which can be used in either PDF files or SWF files generated in InDesign CS4. It’s easy to do, and, while you can’t actually preview the page transitions in InDesign, you get some Flash-based previews in its new dialogs and panels so you can get some idea of what each of the transitions look like before you actually create the PDF file. Here’s how to add page transitions to your PDF presentation:

1. In the Pages panel of InDesign CS4, select Page Transitions > Choose from the panel menu. (Alternatively, you can Control/right-click on a page icon in the panel.) The Page Transitions dialog appears.

Choose Page Transition

Here you can preview a Flash-based animation of each effect. The bottom right choice (Page Turn) is only available for exported SWF files. (Two Acrobat choices have been dropped?Random and Replace.) By default, Apply to All Spreads is checked but you can uncheck it, and apply individual transitions to each spread if you like. (You can do this by Control/right-clicking in an individual spread in the Pages panel and using the Page Transitions panel.)

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2. After choosing one of the radio button choices and clicking OK, the new Page Transitions panel appears. While that’s a little confusing, this panel is used to set the options for the particular transition you choose, or to edit a transition.

Page Transitions Panel

Here, as in Acrobat Pro, you can set the direction and speed of the transition. If you change your mind, you can return to this panel to edit a transition effect or to clear transitions from the panel menu.

3. Just as with transparency effects, you can use the Pages panel indicators to tell you whether a page transition has been applied to a spread. The checkerboard icon indicates spread transparency. The circled icon indicates a page transition.

Page Transition Indicators

4. There are just a couple more things to do: When you export your PDF file, you need to remember to check the Interactive Elements checkbox. Otherwise, they won’t be included.

Check Interactive Elements

5. Finally, you open the PDF you export, and use the arrow keys to move from page to page. But nothing happens! Page transitions in PDF files only appear when you’re in Full Screen mode. Choose View > Full Screen Mode (Cmd/Ctrl-L) in either Adobe Acrobat or Reader. Now using arrow keys will display your page transitions.

If you want to make sure your recipient sees the page transitions, choose File > Properties > Initial View in Acrobat, and check Open in Full Screen mode. Also, tell your recipient to press the Escape key to exit Full Screen mode so they don’t freak out when they can’t get their normal screen back! Sadly, these controls are not yet available in InDesign before you create the PDF file.

Steve Werner is a trainer, consultant, and co-author (with David Blatner and Christopher Smith) of InDesign for QuarkXPress Users and Moving to InDesign. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years and was the training manager for ten years at Rapid Lasergraphics. He has taught computer graphics classes since 1988.
  • Great post Steve. One additional tip… if you make any changes in the Page Transitions panel, by default, those changes are only applied to the selected pages in the Pages panel. If you forgot to select all the pages in the file and wish to synchronize your page transition edits across all the pages in the file, you can click on the only button at the bottom of the Page Transitions panel to do so. If the button is currently dimmed, that means all your pages are using the same page transition settings.

  • Danny Spits says:

    If you use the page tturn transition export to SWF and then open/convert the SWF in Acrobat you will have a PDF with that effect

    • Ian says:

      So with this being said can you inculde SWF capabilities within PDF files when converted? Why Im asking; My idea is to create an interactive PDF but I want my page transition (buttons) in the form of an animated dial that would be done in Flash. Note: Im looking for an animated effect, do not need to include flash though

  • Roland says:

    “so they can be read by our colleagues, customers, or colleagues”

    I take it that means the colleagues we like, our customers and the colleagues we don’t like? ;)

  • Nadya Miloserdova says:

    There are coleagues and coleagues, you know.

    Are there any ideas of leading the customer out of Full Screen mode?
    How to inform him/her to press Esc (and inform that it’s safe for himself/herself, for the file and for the computer)?

  • Steve Werner says:

    That was supposed to be “colleagues, customers, or clients.” Got lost in my editing. Fixed above.

  • KB says:

    I must be getting lost somewhere… I’ve got the InDesign file exported to a SWF file. Now how do I get it back into Acrobat to make it a Flip Book PDF?

    or What am I missing, is there something else I should be doing?


  • Anne-Marie says:

    KB: You can either make a SWF, OR a PDF.

    To see the SWF, open the HTML page that ID created when you exported it to SWF.

    To create a “flip book PDF,” open the original InDesign file and export to PDF. Make sure and include all interactive features (in the PDF Export Options> General panel).


  • Anne-Marie says:

    Re-considering KB’s question and my response, maybe KB is asking how to convert the SWF into a PDF as someone suggested up above.

    You need Acrobat 9 Pro for this. From the File menu choose Create PDF > From File; and then select the .SWF you exported from InDesign.

    Acrobat creates a 1-page PDF with the SWF file embedded, sorta. As you move through the SWF you see the page transitions, even though Acrobat isn’t in Full Screen Mode.

    You’ll need some sort of navigation interface to make sure your users know the file has more than one “page” (or put a big note on it that they can use the arrow keys on their keyboard).

  • Hi friends,

    I need small help for my flipping book
    Can help me anyone
    Issue: Gatefold Spreads pages for flip book

    Thanks and regards
    Srikanth sutari

  • Paul says:

    Hi guys, I’m glad I’ve found this blog!


    I’ve been doing what you and the previous poster suggested for converting SWF files to PDF files to preserve the interactivity of the page already. However I am wondering if you know how to avoid getting a white border around the PDF when you view it in Acrobat?

    This goes when you click on the image and start using the file, however when you choose to see the file full screen (and I might make this a default so it opens this way) it shows the PDF with a white frame almost on a black background. I just don’t want this frame at all!

    Also, does anyone know anything about image quality in this instance? I lose loads on the transparent button rollovers when exporting unless I select “Lossless”.

    Thanks in advance,


  • Nicole says:

    So, I got the InDesign with Page Turn transitions exported as a SWF and then with Acrobat 9 converted it into a pdf.

    Here’s my issue – can this only be viewed with Acrobat 9? I tried sending the newly converted pdf to someone with Reader only and they can’t get past the first page, even in full screen mode. Onscreen, it shows the button to activate the interactivity, but it gives no option to click it. It is simply a stationary item on the page now.

    Anyone have any idea?

  • Steve Werner says:

    @Nicole It sounds like you saved so it can only view it in Acrobat 9 or Reader 9. Earlier versions of Acrobat didn’t handle SWF very well. Did your recipient use Reader 9?

  • Nicole says:

    No. The people I need to send this to only have Reader 8.

  • Steve Werner says:

    If you can’t get your people upgrade to the FREE Reader 9, then you may be out of luck.

  • Catherine says:

    When I created a swf flip book from CS4, the cover has a blank white page opposite. Can you suggest how to change this so the initial page stands alone (until opening flip book)?

    Thank you kindly,

  • GregB says:

    I had the same thing happen first up, bit changed document to single pages, not spreads. Our newspaper rate flyers will never be the same again.

  • Leigh B says:

    Thanks for all the tips!

  • Lilo says:

    I know this post started months ago, but if your looking for why the swf to pdf isn’t working in Acrobat 9 Pro then I found the solution. Btw- I researched this on the web and couldn’t find a thing and it is so simple. Make sure you import into Acrobat BOTH the swf and the html files that Indesign creates when you export as a swf using the page turn transitions. Acrobat will then ask you about the compatibility in an ‘insert flash’ screen- just click okay. Then the screen should show the page with a white border, but when you click the image to start the page flip, the white border will disappear. Also, this does not need to be viewed in full screen mode in Acrobat to work, like the other transitions do. Make sure to save this new pdf. I opened this document in Reader and it works just the same. Sweet.

  • Eline says:

    I read Cathrine’s suggestion but when I changed the document to single pages, all pages appread as singles in the swf and pdf. Does anyone know how to keep the first and the last pages as a single pages and the rest as spreads?

  • Sandeep Nilatkar says:

    can u tell me how i can use the dynamic option with this pdf pages and then make in to flip book.

  • Ita says:

    Hi, I just exported the swf file from InDesign CS4 with the page turn effect, and it works fine for the swf file. However, when I opened the swf file in Acrobat, it cropped it so I’m losing the outer edge of my document. I can still zoomed out and then I’ll see the whole document with additional white pages. I’m not sure why that happened, what did I miss? How can I convert the swf as a pdf without having the cropped preview? It’s not right to have to keep zooming to above 100% to see the whole document. If anyone can help, greatly appreciated.

  • Bia says:

    Sounds like a lot of us are having the same problem… cannot create a cover page (right-hand sided) with the page transitions effect. Any suggestions???

  • Dan says:

    Pretty good! Although I prefer not to use the bloat ware Acrobat Reader at all. There are some pretty good tools out there these days like FlexPaper if you want to do the same as above but get a web based version of your PDF file:

  • nahlah says:

    Good post but it didn’t solve my problem…im using indesign cs6 ME version cuz my book is right bound (RTL). i export as Swf then import back then export into pdf..eeverything works fine..i have a nice page curl BUT it doesn’t look like a book..The pdf opens in spread always even the first page n last (front n back cover) will be obliged if u solve my problem. Thanks

  • Herring says:

    Fantastic post about pdf presentations.

  • Da says:

    An alternative if you want to publish your PDF online is to use a web pdf viewer like FlowPaper

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