InDesign Hyperlinks not Working – Here’s Why!

It can be frustrating when you work on a file, everything is finished, but when you check your links, some or all of them are not working. In this article, we’ll look at why this is so.

InDesign hyperlinks are not working because the hyperlinks tab is not checked, the export is in the wrong format or there is an error in the link text.

There’s usually a pretty simple explanation for why something isn’t working but that doesn’t help if you are trying to finish a job. I know in my case it’s usually because I’m rushing and have forgotten to check everything, but that’s not always the case. Let’s take a look at the most common causes for broken links.

Hyperlinks Tab

When exporting a file from InDesign, for your links to work correctly you need to make sure you have everything checked and toggled correctly.

File – Export

Towards the bottom of the panel in the Include Area. Ensure that Hyperlinks are checked. If it isn’t then your PDF won’t activate them.

Similarly when you upload your file, in the Download PDF settings – Advanced – the Hyperlink Preset needs to be checked on or your viewers won’t be able to Download your PDF correctly.

This is the most common mistake; hopefully, it has solved your problem. If not, then read on.

Export is in the Incorrect Format

InDesign in recent years has made graphic designers’ jobs so much easier. In times past you just exported for print and let it spool happily away until your PDF was created. But now there are several layouts to choose from, from Essential to Printing and Proofing to Interactive or PDF.

They all have different functionality and it’s important we select the correct one for the job at hand.

If you want your PDF export to include hyperlinks then Interactive is the way to go. You can add hyperlinks anywhere within your document but if you export an Interactive PDF any URLs or email addresses will automatically activate as links in your PDF.

I wrote a post recently covering common PDF problems, which you find helpful – PDF Won’t Export InDesign

You can also make sure that your URLs are active within the Hyperlinks Panel.

So your Hyperlinks not working could simply be that you are in the wrong layout selection. Return to your InDesign file and check the top right corner.

Select Interactive from the dropdown menu. Re-export as an Interactive PDF, remembering to check the Hyperlinks box at the bottom of the dialogue panel, and hopefully, all are now working correctly.

There’s an Error in the Hyperlink

This is where things can get a little tricky. It all depends on how many links you have. Some of them may be broken. However, InDesign has a fantastic solution for this. When you create a hyperlink within the Hyperlink Panel, if you are connected to WiFi or the internet, InDesign will go off and check your links for you. It will place either a Green or Red dot beside the link. 

Genius! This alerts you to any links that are not working. Why do they not work, you ask? Well, the answer is the link has not been typed correctly. Click on the Red Dot to see the Path.

There may be an extra letter or an extra (.) period but more often than not it’s something we can’t see, such as extra space at the end of the URL, which is why we initially don’t notice the problem. Click on the link and remove the space.

Hopefully, your Red Dot is now Green.

Re-export and open the PDF to be 100% sure.

Internal links within a document can break if you move pages around. When creating internal document links we go to the Hyperlink Panel: Choose Link to: Page

These are destination links and if you move a page or add a page, the destination link remains the same for that particular page. So, even though you want your link to be to the text on page 14, for example, page 14 is now page 15 or wherever you moved it to. The link continues to be to Page 14. You have to return to the Hyperlink Panel and select the new page number. 

This can be incredibly tedious, so I recommend you leave all internal links to the very last job of the project, so you only have to do it once.

The last glitch with Hyperlinks can involve email addresses. When you want to link an address you do it in the same way as the other links through the Hyperlink Panel. Choose Link to: Email

Here you can enter an address. However, the @ symbol sometimes changes to %40 when exported to certain apps.

When you create a New Hyperlink for email, the email address is automatically generated in the panel. However, when you export the file the email now reads with the %40 instead of @, and so is a broken link.

To solve this glitch we need to change the destination to a URL instead of Mail. It then becomes a HTML email.


No spaces between any of the characters. The downside of this is, if you alter the Mail URL at any stage it will revert back to the original email link. You have to remove it and create a new one. 

I recently wrote an article on Editing a PDF from Mail which you also might find useful.

So again, make sure this is one of the last jobs you do, or at least in the final stages of your project, and the email addresses you have are all spelled correctly.

I’ve written a lot on common InDesign issues, which might help you on your InDesign journey:

1 Background Problem was found with a Background Task

InDesign Won’t Let me Select Anything

InDesign Unlock All On Screen Greyed Out

Also, check out the InDesign FAQ page

If you are curious about other common Design problems check out our general FAQ page

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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