Creating Interactive PDF Documents with CorelDRAW®

By Steve Bain

When it comes to choosing file formats for digital publishing, the Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) is the winner by far. It’s essentially paperless, perfectly portable, and equipped with all kinds of nifty features. As an industry standard, CorelDRAW® software supports many PDF features, including linking capabilities. If you’re new to creating Web or bookmark links with CorelDRAW, this tutorial will show you how it’s done and how to ensure that the links are preserved in your PDF documents. Even though I’m demonstrating using CorelDRAW 12, these features are consistent through versions X3 and X4.

Discover the Beauty of PDF
The popularity of Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® software makes it possible for anyone to view PDF files. For the small business owner, there is nothing better than going totally digital. Not only does paperless publishing reduce, or even eliminate, printing costs, but it also presents other opportunities unheard of just a decade or so ago.

In most cases, digital documents don’t have color, size, or length limitations and can be freely distributed across the globe in a matter of seconds. The best part is that you can add interactivity to your portable documents and have a certain degree of control over how your audience views your document. The nonlinear aspects of interactive documents, such as hyperlinks, demand a little more planning than your typical printed document, so the design stage may be more challenging.

Plan Your Document Design
As with any complex project, the planning stage is always the first critical step. If possible, prepare your content elements in advance – including the text, graphics, and photos. Decide on a page size and plan how you’d like your content to flow. As you add structure to your content, think of how you’d like your audience to move through your document.

CorelDRAW enables you to give unique names to pages which the PDF export filter will then use to create a PDF bookmark list for easy navigation. When you design a document in CorelDRAW, however, you can apply bookmarks to text or graphics to create your own navigation method. When your reader clicks text or graphics applied with a bookmark link in Acrobat Reader, their view instantly changes to display the corresponding bookmark item.

Consider the opportunities for providing links to Web sites. With CorelDRAW, you can assign URL hyperlinks or e-mail addresses to items in your document. Clicking a hyperlink from within the PDF document automatically launches the Web application associated with the type of URL, such as mailto, file, http, https, gopher, FTP, news, telnet, and so on.

Design a Navigation Method
You can use almost any text or graphic as a navigation device, which typically identifies the current location and shows other areas to explore. As an example, I’ve created a promotional document for a fictitious health product company. For the navigation, I’ve used a folder tab-style design to indicate the specific areas in the document (see below).


In CorelDRAW, I’ve applied links to the tab buttons for page navigation. The example below shows the active button area.


Under each page tab are text objects to which I’ve applied bookmarks linked to specific text headings on the page (see below).

Throughout my fictitious document, I’ve applied hyperlinks to Web pages that provide the audience with current product information. I’ve also added e-mail addresses to direct readers to specific company contacts (see below). In Acrobat Reader, active bookmark links are indicated by a pointing-finger cursor, and active hyperlinks are indicated by the same cursor featuring a W (for Web).

Now let’s explore how these links are created in CorelDRAW to make your text and objects interactive when they are published to PDF.

Create Links in CorelDRAW

We’ll start with bookmarks.

In a PDF file, Acrobat Reader can display page bookmarks in a bookmark list. This list is a basic page navigation tool, and it allows your audience to move quickly between document sections. The unique name you assign to each page in your document becomes the bookmark page name in Acrobat Reader. I’ve named each page according to the subject areas in my example (see below).

After publishing the document to PDF, the page names appear in the bookmark list when the document is viewed in Adobe® Acrobat® (see below). By default, pages are also sequentially numbered. Bookmark destinations on the pages are included as subsets.

To name a page in your CorelDRAW document, right-click its page tab at the bottom of your document window, and choose Rename Page from the context menu. In the dialog box that opens, you can assign a page name up to 31 characters long (see below).

To create a link, you need to define at least one source and link the source to a destination. By doing this, you create your own internal document page navigation system: you decide which items to use as the sources (such as photos, shapes, or text) and then you link those sources to destination items in your document. You can specify the source and destination by using two key features of CorelDRAW- the Internet toolbar and the Internet Bookmark Manager docker.

To open the Internet Toolbar, choose Window > Toolbars> Internet. Although this toolbar includes several other features, the main areas you’ll use are the Behavior selector and the Internet Address/Bookmark selector (see below). Using these options, you can build your bookmark list by specifying the bookmark destinations (explained later). 

The source items are defined by using the Internet Bookmark Manager (choose Window > Dockers > Internet Bookmark Manager). The Bookmark Manager (shown below) enables you to view a list of all bookmarks that you’ve applied to items in your document. The Link button enables you to establish a bookmark link between your selected item and the bookmark selected in the list. The docker also includes a Select button to quickly locate items that are linked to a selected bookmark.

There are two types of bookmarks you can create in CorelDRAW: page bookmarks, which navigate to a specific page, and target bookmarks, which navigate to a specific item on a page – either text or a graphic. Let’s begin by creating a page bookmark:

  1. With the Internet Toolbar in view, select an item in your document to act as the source of the page bookmark link, and choose URL from the Behavior selector.
  2. In the Internet Address/Bookmark selector, you’ll see a list of default page bookmarks sequentially named “Top Of Page N” (where N is the page number). Choose the destination of the page bookmark from the list to create the link (see below).
  3. As an alternative, you can also apply page bookmarks to items by right-clicking the selected object and choosing Internet Links > Top Of Page N from the context menu (see below). After you make your selection, the Internet Address/ Bookmark selector will show “_PAGEN” as the destination. When your document is exported to PDF, clicking the bookmark link will take you to the page you selected.

The second type of bookmark you can create is a target bookmark. This bookmark type is item-specific, meaning you can specify an item as the destination and then link it to other items. To create a target bookmark, follow these steps:

  1. With the Internet Toolbar and the Internet Bookmark Manager in view, select an item on your page to serve as the destination. This is the item that your readers will be directed to when they click the bookmark link.
  2. In the Internet Toolbar, choose Bookmark from the Behavior selector. Notice that the Internet Address/Bookmark selector now displays the words “Internet Bookmark” (see below).
  3. Click in the Internet Address/Bookmark selector (the default text disappears), enter a unique name for your bookmark destination, and press Enter. Notice that the newly created bookmark is added to the Internet Bookmark Manager docker list.

Web URLs can also be applied as destinations to items in your document by using the Internet Toolbar. A URL can be a variety of types, including a Web site address (http:// or https://), a newsgroup (news://), an e-mail address (mailto:), a file path (file://), or an FTP site (ftp://). To apply a URL, follow these steps:

  1. Select an item to apply the link, and choose URL from the Behavior selector.
  2. To specify a Web page, click in the Internet Address/Bookmark selector, type the Web address, and press Enter. The default Web site address prefix “http://” is automatically entered (see below).


To enter a different type of URL address (such as mailto:), you can follow a similar procedure. The only difference is that you must manually enter the complete URL, including the prefix. For example, entering “” creates a URL for an e-mail contact (see below). Press Enter to apply the address to your selected item.


For convenience, newly created hyperlinks are automatically added to the Internet Address/Bookmark selector list so that you can quickly apply them to other items in your document (see below).


Applying Bookmarks and Hyperlinks to Text
The steps we’ve covered so far generally describe the steps to apply links to objects selected with the Pick Tool. In these cases, the links you create are applied to the object and make the entire object clickable.

With text, however, you may want to apply links to individual words or phrases within a text string, instead of to the entire text object. This kind of link can be applied only to paragraph text and only if the text is Web-compatible (whether or not your PDF is destined for the Web). To apply a bookmark, hyperlink or mailto address to a word or a phrase within a larger string of characters, follow these steps:

  1. Using the Pick Tool, select your text object. If you’ve selected an artistic text object as indicated by the Status Bar (see below), choose Text > Convert to Paragraph Text (Ctrl+F8).
  2. Once the text is converted, choose Text > Make Text Web Compatible. (This option is also available as a button in the Internet Toolbar, as shown below.)
  3. To create the link, use the Text Tool (F8) to highlight the specific text characters you want to make clickable, and then use the Internet Toolbar to apply the link.
  4. To make the text a bookmark destination, choose Bookmark from the Behavior selector, enter a bookmark name in the Internet Address/Bookmark selector, and press Enter. To set a text source for the link, use the Text Tool again to highlight the source text, click your bookmark in the Bookmark Manager docker, and click the Link button.

To apply a URL or mailto hyperlink to your selected text, choose URL from the Behavior selector, enter the Web address or mailto address in the Internet Address/Bookmark selector, and press Enter.

After the link is applied to your text, it appears as a typical Web hyperlink, which by default is underlined and blue. You can change the appearance of the hyperlinks in your PDF by choosing Tools > Options, navigating to Document > Publish to the Web > Links in the tree directory, and then choosing a color from the Link Color area.


Export to PDF from CorelDRAW
When you’re ready to publish, choose File > Publish to PDF to open the Save as PDF dialog, and save your new portable, interactive document. Before clicking the Save button, you may want to customize how your document will be created. Click the Settings button to open the Publish to PDF dialog which features options organized into six tabbed areas.

If the PDF you’re creating is for screen viewing, be sure to click the Document tab to access the bookmark options (see below) and select the Include Hyperlinks and Generate Bookmarks options. Choosing Include Hyperlinks will ensure that the URL and bookmark links you’ve created in your document will be interactive in the published PDF.

Choosing Generate Bookmarks will create an Acrobat Reader bookmark list from the page and target bookmarks in your document, so the interactivity you’ve engineered into your document will be included in the PDF.


The final step before distributing your published PDF is to examine it carefully and verify the accuracy of each bookmark and link. As any seasoned Web designer will tell you, providing poorly organized links and faulty navigation is one of the fastest ways to lose your audience’s attention.

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Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and an author of nearly a dozen books, including CorelDRAW: The Official Guide.


8 responses to “Creating Interactive PDF Documents with CorelDRAW®

  1. Great article, and very timely for me. although i have used Draw since its beginning, i had no idea about this feature other than i could generally publish items to PDF format. well written and very clear directions. very useful tutorial, thank you.

  2. Hi Steve,
    I’m using CorelDRAW X4. When I publish to PDF, every single page of my 200 page book shows up as bookmarked in the bookmark panel. How can I have just chapter heading bookmarks appear with a ‘+’ sign to their left, so that when I click on the ‘+’ it then expands out the pages within that chapter?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Good question. However, the answer may not help you. CorelDRAW’s bookmarks are ‘automatically’ page-based. There is no built-in feature to manage bookmarks at this top level. While other applications enable you to create the structure you seek using an applied styles hierachy, CorelDRAW doesn’t. It merely allows you to navigate either to the top of a specific page, or to a bookmarked object on that page. You may be able to use Acrobat Professional to edit your PDF. That said, it may not be a wise strategy to create a CorelDRAW document that includes 200 pages of text. You might consider using InDesign or even MS Word + a PDF creator to accomplish this. That’s not what you wanted to hear, was it? 😉 Good luck regardless!

  3. Thanks Steve,
    I was afraid that was the answer!
    I might just leave out the Bookmarks but link the Chapter Titles on the Contents Page with each Chapter Title Page.

    Acrobat Reader shows all the individual pages as icons anyway!

    Thanks for clearing that up for me!


  4. I am not able to access hyperlinks which are broken into two lines for
    mail/work.,how does this work in Corel x4

    • Hmmm. The first thing I would check is that the links are not split apart using a hard return or a line feed. Doing this would effectively split the link and likely break the link relationship on the split portion.

  5. Your article is very useful. I can now make objects in Coreldraw with a link to an URL, export it to Pdf and voila: a clickable document.
    I did not succeed in using the buttons supplied by Coreldraw. I use CorelDraw 11 in the Dutch version and the translated commands are not helping any. So my question is: how to use “insert internet object”? And can you export this to a Pdf-file?

    • Frederic, the Internet Objects are specifically for creating Web documents if you intend on exporting your page in HTML format. They are not intended for any other use.

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