MadeToTag: Tagged PDF in 7 steps

MadeToTag features an UI, which allows step-by-step guidance through tasks for creating accessible, tagged PDF files. This new concept offers a better overview of the necessary tasks and provides a higher level of control.

MadeToTag has been developed to prepare InDesign documents for export to well tagged and thus accessible PDF. The user interface of MadeToTag directly supports the necessary main steps:

  • content reflects semantic structure
  • content order in exported PDF matches reading order
  • alternate text is provided for non-text elements (for example images)
  • metadata is provided for the document (like the document title)

In addition, specific features are offered, for example to verify that text uses sufficient contrast.

Task 1: Define and review export tags

Export tags are associated with paragraph styles and represent semantic labels (also referred to as “tags”) used to indicate the type of the parts of a document’s content, like whether a piece of text is a paragraph or a title. In order for export tags to work well, paragraph styles have to be used consistently across the document. For paragraphs and headings, export tags have to be assigned by the user. For lists, tables and tables of contents, InDesign automatically creates the correct tags when exporting to PDF, but only if the respective features of InDesign are used.

Assign export tags to paragraph styles

With MadeToTag assigning the right export tags for paragraphs and headings is easy – just assign the right export tag to a text that is using the respective paragraph style:

  • Make sure you have enabled keyboard MadeToTag short cuts at the bottom of the MadeToTag panel
  • Put the text cursor inside a paragraph for which you wish to assign an export tag
  • Press Option-”1” for a heading level 1, Option-”2” for a heading level 2 etc. or Option-”7” for a paragraph
  • In order to remove an export tag from a paragraph style, press Option-”0” (Option-“zero”)
  • If a paragraph style is used for decorative parts (artifacts) of the document’s content, use Option-”9” – but use this with care as all content inside paragraphs associated with the artifact export tag will not be an accessible part of the content structure in the exported PDF.

There is no need to set an export tag for lists or a table of contents generated by InDesign – just leave the export tag at “automatic”. For tables, the content in table cells is formatted as any other text content, for example as a regular paragraph or a list. Please avoid headings inside tables as this is usually not adequate. Instead, header cells in a table are configured through the table setup in InDesign.

Review export tags for paragraph styles

In order to make it easy to find out whether all text in an InDesign document is using the correct export tag, check the “Highlight export tags” check box to activate color highlighting for export tags:

  • Headings are highlighting by an orange color (darker orange for heading level 1, increasingly lighter for the heading levels below it)
  • Paragraphs are highlighted by a blue color
  • Lists are highlighted by green
  • Paragraphs representing artifacts are highlighted by a red color

The color highlighting is only shown on screen and will not be visible in print output or exported PDF files.

Task 2: Structure content into articles

InDesign comes with a feature called “articles” – accessible through the “Article” panel – which makes it possible to organize the content of an InDesign document in a sequence of “articles”, each containing a sequence of frames defining the order of the document’s content, in the order it will usually be consumed by a reader.

Create articles

MadeToTag provides keyboard short cuts to make creation of articles faster.

  • Make sure you have enabled the MadeToTag short cuts at the bottom of the MadeToTag panel
  • Make sure you have the “Articles” panel open while organizing your content into articles
  • Select a frame that shall become the first content object in a new article, and press Command-“N”, enter a name for the article, and press OK – as you can immediately see in the “Articles” panel, this will create a new article
  • Select a frame that shall be added to the current article as the next part of that article’s content and press Command-“A” – as you can immediately see in the “Articles” panel, this will add the currently selected frame to the current article

Important to know:

  • Once a frame from a text chain is associated with an article, the whole text chain is associated with the article, including all anchored frames in it.
  • Frames on master pages cannot be associated with articles; in order to associate frames on a master page with an article, they first have to be turned into regular frames.

Ensure all content is ordered in articles

MadeToTag offers various possibilities to temporarily hide or show frames, depending on whether they are associated with the current article or any article or not. For example the short cut Command-Shift-“X” hides all frames already associated with the current article, to make it easier to identify frames that still have to be associated with that article. The available possibilities can be found in the fly out menu of the MadeToTag panel.

Review content order and semantic structure

In order to check and review the content order and semantic structure of an article, use the “Show preview” feature (shortcut: Command-Shift-“V”). The MadeToTag preview feature will display a new window containing a stylized structural view of the content of the current article. For creating an overview of the whole document, including all its articles, use “Preview for all articles” (shortcut: Command-Shift-“B”).

Task 3: Alternate Text

In order to make the content of a PDF file to users with certain disabilities, loss of vision, low vision or learning disabilities, it is essential to provide a text equivalent for non-text content like images.

Locate frames requiring alternate text

There are two ways to locate frames requiring alternate text:

  • Use the “Go to next frame without alternate text” button in the MadeToTag panel – the next image frame that does not yet have alternate text will be centered on screen and be selected; just enter the alternate text in the text field in the MadeToTag panel and click “Apply”
  • Use the “Show overview” button in the MadeToTag panel to display a list of all image frames in the document, optionally displaying only images for which alternate text still has to be provided; just go to the text field to the right of the respective image and enter the alternate text

Review alternate text

In order to review the alternate text in the context of the surrounding content, simply use the article preview feature, by pressing Command-Shift-“V” for a structural preview of the current article, or Command-Shift-“B” for a structural preview of all articles.

Task 4: Review Document Metadata

The MadeToTag panel provides a view of the most important metadata fields (for a dialog offering access to all metadata fields, use InDesign’s “File Info” feature). In order to make an exported tagged PDF accessible it is important to at least provide a meaningful document title. Further fields can be filled out as suitable.

Task 5: Language

In order to enable proper speech synthesis for text-to-speech – e.g. when accessing PDF documents with a screen reader program, or when converting PDF content to an audio file or audio stream – it is important that all text in the PDF document is marked with the correct language. In InDesign this can be controlled through a language setting in the paragraph and character styles. Correct language settings also have the advantage to enable suitable hyphenation and spell checking.

Review language settings in the document

In order to make it easy to find out whether all text in an InDesign document is using the correct language check the “Highlight language” check box to activate color highlighting for the languages used in the document:

  • the prevalent “Primary language” is highlighted by a pastel red color
  • the second and third languages are highlighted using pastel green and pastel blue
  • any further languages are combined into one group of “Other languages”, highlighted in pastel pink

The color highlighting is only shown on screen and will not be visible in print output or exported PDF files.

Locating languages in the document

When an unwanted language needs to be located, the navigation buttons under each language popup menu can be used to go to the first, previous, next or last occurrence of that language in the InDesign document.

Adjusting languages in the document

When text is selected there are the following methods to adjust the language in a given text to the primary, second or third language (as reflected in the MadeToTag panel):

  • change the language for the paragraph style associated with the currently selected text, by using the respective menu items – or keyboard shortcuts – under the “Export tags | Language” fly out menu in the MadeToTag panel
  • change the language for the character style associated with the currently selected text, by using the respective menu items – or keyboard shortcuts – under the “Export tags | Language” fly out menu in the MadeToTag panel
  • change the language for the currently selected text by using the respective menu items – or keyboard shortcuts – under the “Export tags | Language” fly out menu in the MadeToTag panel

In order to set the language for selected text to languages other than the primary, second or third language, use the “Set language for current text” pop-up menu in the MadeToTag panel to set the language as local formatting. Furthermore, all the language options built into InDesign for setting the language of text and paragraph or character styles of course remain available.

Task 6: Table structure

MadeToTag makes it possible to tag tables for advanced navigation support. The main purpose of this function is to differentiate table headers from regular table cells (often referred to as data cells).

The “Status” area provides information about the number of tables in articles, and in frames anchored in text frames belonging to an article. It also shows the number of tables that are not associated with an article. Users can use the arrow keys in the navigation area to navigate between available tables and edit every table in order. The configuration area can be used to define how table headers are configured. This can be done in three different ways:

1. Use InDesign column header

This involves using the headers as defined in InDesign when creating the table. This is limited to column headers, row headers are not supported in this mode.

2. Tagging with Quick Headers

Quick Headers are expressed as the number of row headers and the number of column header. The values can simply be entered in the corresponding fields.

3. Smart Headers

It is also possible to specify which cells should be tagged as header cells using the “Activate Smart Headers editing mode” button. The cursor can be used to select table cells. These are then highlighted in green. The selected table cells can then be associated with other cells in the table to establish a parent child relationship, where each parent cell serves as a header cell for the associated child or children. These relationships can be nested - a cell can serve as a header cell for some other header cell, which serves as the header for some data cells. For this to function, the geometric position of the cells in the table grid is not relevant. Thus the Smart Header function can be used to set up even complex, possibly nested relationships between header cells and data cells.

The basic sequence of necessary steps is:

  • select a cell in a table (make sure that “Smart Headers editing mode” is activated)
  • the cell will be highlighted in green with a dotted border around it
  • link a cell as a child cell to it by Command-clicking on that cell
  • the now linked child cell will be filled with a blue colour
  • when selecting a cell to become a header cell, or when Command-clicking to link a cell as a child cell, it is also possible to do a click-drag or Command-click-drag, to select several cells to become header cells, or to link several cells a child cells
  • the linking of child cells to header cells can be nested, it is thus possible to make a cell the header cell of some other header cell, which in turn is the header for a date cell
  • in order for Smart Header to function the position of cells in a table grid is irrelevant; nevertheless tables still need to be constructed in a fashion that can be understood and makes sense
  • starting from a selected cell it is also possible to link some other cell as a parent - just hold down the Shift key while doing Command-click. When the Shift key is pressed, Command-click-drag is not supported - only one parent cell at a time can be linked to one or more selected cells.

The color highlighting is only shown on screen and will not be visible in print output or exported PDF files.

Task 7: Create tagged PDF file

While it is possible to export to a tagged PDF using InDesign’s built-in features, the MadeToTag panel provides its own tagged PDF export mechanism. The MadeToTag tagged PDF export carries out several extra steps not otherwise available in InDesign. Among other things it fixes a number of bugs in the InDesign tagged PDF export, and optimizes the exported tagged PDF, for example by removing empty paragraphs from the tagged content structure, marking all objects that are not part of the tagged content as artifacts, setting the default language of the exported tagged PDF, and so forth. In the MadeToTag panel there are the following options that can be configured:

  • Define the pages to be exported
  • Export document as “Spreads” (versus “Individual pages“)
  • “Optimize anchored frames” option stops the texts in complex anchored frames being rasterized during export
  • “Optimize Table Of Contents” option improves the tag placement for the table of content created in InDesign
  • Export an accessible standard PDF/UA-1 or additionally a PDF/A-2a for document archiving (PDF/A-2a are PDF/UA compatible too)
  • Display exported tagged PDF right after the export
  • Define the image handling for JPEG quality, compression, resolution
  • “Optimize form fields“ option can be used to adapt the PDF forms
  • Option to choose the initial view settings for the PDF: Default view (e.g. “Fit Page”, “Fit Width”) and the layout (e.g. “Two-Up”)

After exporting the PDF it is recommended to review the tagging structure in the exported PDF with the free callas pdfGoHTML plug-in (requires Acrobat DC for Mac or Windows), a joint development by axaio software and callas software, and available for download from

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