How to refer to mismatched page numbers in a PDF document?
October 13, 2014 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I often need to refer a person to a specific page in a PDF document linked in an email. Sometimes the document contains page numbers on headers or footers that do not match the numbering of the PDF file. For example, the page with “12” displayed in the footer is page 16 of the PDF file, because the file includes four pages of front matter. “Page 1” as labeled in the document is the fifth page of the file, as shown in the document reader’s toolbar.

Acrobat and other programs provide tools to make page numbering consistent, but I am not the author of these documents and can’t change how the page numbers have been assigned. What is the best way to describe the target page? I usually say something like “See p. 12 (p. 16/24 of the PDF file).” Is there a better way to describe the page and minimize confusion?
posted by Snerd to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "PDF page 38; page 36 as numbered."
posted by DarlingBri at 11:41 AM on October 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Hm. I'd probably say: "Page 10 in the PDF viewer, or page 6 as printed on the document." I think the way you describe it is fine though.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:44 AM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can also link directly to a specific page of a PDF by appending #page=X to the URL. This may not work for all browsers/viewers, but it'll save time and eliminate ambiguity for a lot of readers:
posted by mbrubeck at 12:08 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The way I usually do this when dealing with artworkers is 'document, folio'. So , to use your example from above the fold, document 16, folio 12. This, of course, depends on the person looking at the document at the other end knowing what I'm on about, so use whatever works for you and the people you're working with.
posted by peteyjlawson at 12:09 PM on October 13, 2014

Cardinality vs. ordinality?
posted by Chitownfats at 12:18 PM on October 13, 2014

Do you have Acrobat (not reader)?
If so, you can build a bookmarks tree with links to that pages in question.
If so, you can insert a page and drop in link annotations that point to each page.

If you're inclined to write code, this is a straightforward task with iText or iText#.
If you use my company's product (spoiler: I wrote it), this is downright trivial:
// C# sample code - wrote it off the top of my head
// source is full path to the source file, dest where you want to save it
// captions are the text for each bookmark, pageDests are the 0-based page indicies.
public static void AddBookmarks(string source, string dest, string[] captions, int[] pageDests) {
    using (FileStream instm = new FileStream(source, FileMode.Open)) {
        // TODO - range check pageDests and make sure the length of captions and pageDests match
        PdfDocument doc = new PdfDocumnt(source);
        // wipe out the existing tree
        doc.BookmarkTree = new PdfBookmarkTree();
        // put in the new bookmarks
        for (int i=0; i < captions.Length; i++) {
            PdfBookmark mark = new PdfBookmark(captions[i], PdfDestination.FitBoundsAction(pageDests[i]);

Me:This product isn't cheap (it's more costly than a single copy of Acrobat, IIRC).
Homer:That's bad
Me:You can get a free trial
Homer:That's good
Me:It only lasts 30 days
Homer:That's bad
Me:It comes with Frogurt
Homer:That's good
Me:The Frogurt is cursed
posted by plinth at 5:12 PM on October 13, 2014

If you have Acrobat, you can renumber the pages so they match.
posted by kindall at 11:10 AM on October 14, 2014

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