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Create FrameMaker Clickable Hyperlinks that Work in Acrobat

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Learn how FrameMaker's vast array of features enables you to create hypertext links that work in Acrobat PDF. This article explores some practical hypertext techniques that save you development time when creating helpful online documents.
Lisa Jahred, author of FrameMaker 6: Beyond the Basics, writes a regular column for InformIT.
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FrameMaker provides the capability to not only convert documents to Acrobat PDF format, but also to create clickable hyperlinks that work in Acrobat PDF. That is one of the many advantages to creating source documents in FrameMaker. This saves you lots of time later after source information is in Acrobat format.

If you have used an online help system of any kind or surfed around on the World Wide Web, you're already familiar with hypertext links. A link on a Web page is essentially the same thing as a hypertext link. You can click a Web page link that takes you to a new URL.

Hypertext links are helpful to link information in online documents and get you to that information quickly.

In this article, I show you how to save time by creating hypertext links in FrameMaker that work in Adobe Acrobat PDF. I focus on a few practical techniques that you can use to create the following types of hyperlinks:

  • Clickable cross-references

  • Hypertext links in generated files (tables of contents, indexes and other lists)

  • Links to URLs

  • Graphical button links


One of the fastest and easiest methods to create hypertext links in FrameMaker that works in PDF is to use cross-references. FrameMaker cross-references become instant hypertext links when FrameMaker documents are saved as PDF documents.


To insert a cross-reference in FrameMaker, select Special, Cross-Reference. To learn more about cross-references, see Chapter 5 of FrameMaker 6: Beyond the Basics. You can download this chapter for free at or view it online at

Do not use the PDFWriter printer driver to create PDF documents. Instant hypertext links will not be activated using PDFWriter.

After you have included cross-references in FrameMaker documents and converted to Acrobat PDF, here's how to use cross-references in a PDF file:

  1. In a PDF file, place the insertion cursor over a cross-reference text area. The insertion cursor changes to a hand with a pointing finger. Click one time.

  2. Acrobat jumps to and displays the source information, whether in the current file or in a different file.

Keep in mind that when cross-reference sources are contained in external documents, those documents must also be in PDF format in order for hypertext links to work. If they are not, you will get an error message that the source file does not exist.

When creating online documents, keep filenames and paths the same. For example, if a cross-reference links to external source document, do not change the name of that file when converting to PDF, just the filename extension. The name of the resulting file should be filename.pdf. After the files are converted to PDF, the cross-reference automatically looks for filename.pdf, not If you change the name to something other then the original name, the cross-reference link does not work.


Windows users: To test cross-reference links in FrameMaker, hold down Ctrl+Alt, and click the cross-reference.

All platforms: Make a View-Only document by pressing in sequence, Esc F l k; then click the cross-reference link. Esc F l k toggles between View-Only and Editable.

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