How to Make a Hyperlink in a PDF File

By Shelley Hoose

Decide whether you want an online tool or one you can download and install.
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You cannot use the free Acrobat Reader to add hyperlinks to a PDF, but several free or low-cost PDF editors will do the job for you, or you can purchase the gold standard, Adobe Acrobat. Free tools vary widely, and many do not support the ability to add hyperlinks. Among those that do are PDFescape, PDFill and OpenOffice Draw, used with a special PDF import plugin. PDFescape offers an online editor, as well as a desktop version for a fee, while PDFill and Draw are provided as desktop software only.

Documents you create using Microsoft Office 2013 produce clickable hyperlinks when you save the file as a PDF.


PDFescape’s free online version is fully functional but displays banner ads, while the Premium version is ad-free and offers more file storage at $20 per year as of the date of publication. The free version supports the creation of hyperlinks as well as other editing tools. The company also offers a desktop version, deskPDF Studio X, that you download to your computer and install. Studio X is the company’s most robust offering at $60 for a lifetime license.

To add hyperlinks to your PDF using any version of PDFescape, open the website, click “Edit Your PDF Now” and follow the prompts to select either the free PDFescape, the Premium version or Studio X. For the online version, choose to either create a PDF document, upload one, or edit a previously opened PDF that you have saved to the site’s servers. In the open PDF, choose the “Insert” tab, select “Link” and then use your cursor to drag across the text that you want to become link. Enter the URL in the pop-up and press “OK.” Save your document back to your computer by clicking “Save and Download.”

PDFill PDF Editor

PDFill PDF Editor is a free desktop program with a suite of tools featuring a wide range of editing capabilities. After you’ve downloaded and installed it, open your PDF in PDFill by right-clicking on it, selecting “Open With” and then selecting “Choose Default Program.” Open the location of your PDF Fill installation and select “PDFill Editor 11.0.” Uncheck “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” to continue to open your PDFs in your default program. Click “OK” to open the file. Add a link using the Insert menu.

OpenOffice Draw with the PDF Import for Apache OpenOffice Extension

When equipped with the PDF Import extension, OpenOffice Draw does an impressive job at opening and converting a PDF, although if your PDF features a complex design, it may not render perfectly.

The extension also offers a very cool feature: you can save the edited file as a hybrid file -- although it will have a PDF extension so that any PDF reader can open it, it will actually be a hybrid PDF/ODF file, able to be opened for editing by any OpenOffice application.

First download and install OpenOffice if you don’t have it already, and then download and install the PDF Import for Apache OpenOffice extension. If OpenOffice Draw is open, close, re-open it and then open your PDF file. Select the text where you want the hyperlink, open the “Insert” menu and click “Hyperlink” to open the Hyperlink dialog. The Internet tab in the left sidebar is enabled by default. If you are adding a link to a website, enter the URL in the Target field and configure your URL with any custom settings, such as to identify a target. When you've completed your edits, choose “Export as PDF” from the File menu.

Adobe Acrobat Standard or Pro

If you have Adobe Acrobat, either the Standard or Pro version, add a link using the Link tool. From the Tools menu, select “Content” and then “Link.” This command activates any links that currently exist in your document, identifying them with black rectangles. To create a new link, drag your cursor to create a rectangle around the text where you want the link and choose your link options. You can link to either a page in the same document, another file, a Web page, or you can create a custom link that performs a particular action when clicked, such as opening a menu.

Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013 can save an Office document as a PDF file with no special add-ons or software. This ability is not available in earlier versions, which required a special add-on to save files as PDFs. Any hyperlink you add to your file is converted to a clickable link if you save the file as a PDF. To add a link to an Office document -- such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint -- right-click the text you want to become a link and select " Hyperlink." To link to a website, enter the Web address in the Address field. Alternatively, link to a place in the document or in a new document.

To save the file as PDF, select the "File" menu, "Save As" and then choose the location where you want to save the file. In the "Save As" dialog, choose "PDF (*.pdf)" in the "Save as Type" drop-down. To minimize the file size for online distribution, select "Minimum Size (Publishing Online)." Click the "Options" button to customize the PDF, such as to print only a page range or to include non-printing information. Click "OK" to close the Options dialog if you have opened it. Click "Save." Open your PDF in any PDF reader to test your link.