• MadeToTag is a plug-in for InDesign CS5.5 that extends Indesign's capabilities to structure content for export to a tagged PDF. Among other aspects, MadeToTag takes advantage of the "Articles" panel and makes it possible to use it in a much faster and more reliable way. Content that has been organized into articles can be exported to tagged PDF very easily. In addition to organizing the content into articles, it is also necessary to assign standard tag types to paragraph style sheets, to add alternate text to images, or to use the InDesign table of content feature to create bookmarks in the exported PDF.

    Some features in the current MadeToTag public beta are still missing or incomplete. For example, there is no decent support for organizing anchored object groups well or to quickly create proper hyperlinks. It is also still necessary in the public beta, to fix two issues in the exported PDF in Acrobat Pro, namely to set the document default language and to set the tabbing order inside PDF pages such that it follows the tagged document structure. Both are easy to fix though in Acrobat Pro.

Establish content structure

  • This section describes a number of steps that should be executed right at the beginning – just make it a habit to ensure they have been applied for each document you are about to prepare for export to tagged PDF.

  • In InDesign CS5.5 articles are created by dragging frames that belong to an article into the Articles panel one after the other.

  • Portions of content that are not themselves text - like images, or figures, charts, drawings, etc. - should be accompanied by text based content that reflects the content of it as perceived by sighted users. Getting such alternate text right is a science in its own regard - and sometimes the subject of heated discussion bordering on religious wars. A good guideline is the following: imagine you are talking to a friend over the phone, who is really interested in an article because it is about one of his favorite topics. You have already read the article text to him, but he also wants to understand what images and drawings are shown. The same amount of information you would tell your friend is probably just the same amount of information you should put inside the alternate text of an image - your friend does not want to stay on the phone endlessly, and somebody using a screen reader or some other tool does not want to listen to a thesis about just an image.

  • Artefacts are content items that do not contribute to the meaning of the content. Very typical examples of artefacts are parts of a page that are a result of pagination - page number, running header and footer - but also purely decorative objects, like a page background, or any purely decorative elements in general. Usually it does not offer any value to people with disabilities to be presented with such objects if all they care about is the actual content of the document.

Find and resolve remaining issues

  • Numerous aspects can go wrong when structuring an InDesign document for export to tagged PDF (or EPUB) - and it is often very difficult or time consuming to identify such problems. MadeToTag offers Problem locators to help a user review such aspects in an InDesign document. In some cases the Problem locator offers a possibility to directly apply a fix, in other cases it only points to a possible problem. It is also important to understand that the Problem locator may bring up instances of an aspect that might be a problem which turns out to not be a problem at all - in such cases a user should simply skip that instance and move to the next instance.

  • Hard returns are often used to achieve a certain appearance, while not necessarily getting the semantic aspects right. For example, where a hard return is used to start a new paragraph, the tagging of the article will not reflect that actually a new paragraph started. Hard returns are often introduced through copy and paste, or through sloppy layout creation.

  • Semantically correct preparation of documents for export to tagged PDF (or to EPUB) implies that hyphens must be done the right way - usually only showing up at the end of lines, when hyphenation had to be applied to word to facilitate a nice looking line break and decent paragraph justification. Once hyphenation changes, hyphens should go away again, as otherwise they would show up in the middle of a line.

    Dashes should only show up in the middle of a line, as part of words, if that is intentional. For example, the word "Plug-in" always has the dash inside the word, whereas "Exten-sions" (with a 'forgotten' hyphen in the middle of the word) just doesn't look right.

    The Problem locator "Faux hyphens" detects dashes at the end of lines where those dashes should rather be soft hyphens (also formally called discretionary hyphen), and offers to fix them by replacing them with a soft hyphen.

    Note: In case you wanted to better understand what special characters are supported by InDesign, the following document by "InDesign Secrets" is very handy:

  • Especially at hectic times even the most professional layouter might skip a few steps and manually create the appearance of a list without using proper list formatting. In such cases text is created in a way that makes it impossible to assign standard tags for lists to the tags (which in turn decreases the usefulness of tagged PDF exported from such content). The "faux bullet list" Problem locator locates text portions that look like lists but which have not been formatted like lists.

    Note: The nice thing about how InDesign CS5.5 handles list in articles on export to tagged PDF is, that it takes care of proper tagging (just set the standard tag to "Automatic" when you "Edit all Export Tags..." for any style sheet that formats text as a list.

  • The current pre-release of MadeToTag contains a few additional Problem locators. Some of these locators are not yet fully functional - please try them out as you see fit. In addition, more Problem locators will be added to MadeToTag over time.

Export to tagged PDF and last touches

  • The export to tagged PDF is done through the regular PDF export dialog in Adobe InDesign CS5.5. Unfortunately Adobe decided two PDF export paths is better than one - forcing users to make a choice where not all implications of such a choice are made clear. We hope that Adobe is going to merge the two PDF export paths back into a single PDF export path with possibly a few new options. Until then we recommend the following:

    • unless you know of an important reason to use the "Adobe PDF (interactive)" PDF export path, simply use the good old "Adobe PDF (print)" export path as it offers better control over a number of features.
    • if nevertheless you are into creating a slide show or need to keep interactive buttons or other interactive features, you may want to look at the "Adobe PDF (interactive)" PDF export path.

    For the purpose of this tutorial, we will only make use of the "Adobe PDF (print)" PDF export path.

  • A very good tool to help you assess the quality of a tagged PDF is the free of charge PDF Accessibility Checker from the foundation "Access-for-all" in Switzerland.

  • As everywhere else, the proof of the pie is in the eating. As Acrobats built-in accessibility features like read aloud, reflow or export to accessible text are very limited it is a good idea to use the same tools for quality assurance that users with disabilities would use on a daily basis. There are quite a number of such tools out there, depending on whether you have no vision, limited vision, cognitive disabilities or whether you are deaf, have limited mobility or suffer from other limitations.

    One of the more easy to "get hold of" tools is JAWS Screenreader as it can be downloaded freely and be run for 40 minutes without functional limitations (after 40 minutes, if you wanted to use JAWS some more, you would have to reboot your machine). JAWS Screenreader 13 (the latest version as of January 2012) is available from Freedom Scientific at

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