Tagging a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro

Last modified 1/5/2024

Document tags are essential for document accessibility. Your document cannot be fully accessible without them.

Document tags tell screen readers and other assistive technologies on how to interpret the document's content and determine the reading order of its pages content. Without tags, a readable or searchable PDF reads the content out of order. Jumping around between areas and pages can cause confusion. You can add or update the document tags in the tags tree.

Many applications like Word or InDesign have ways to save or export a document as a PDF. Oftentimes the resulting PDF documents may be tagged incorrectly, have custom tags, or have no tags at all. If this is the case, you will have to update them manually.

Getting Started

To determine if your document tags are correct you need to open the Tags Tree in Acrobat Pro.

Screenshot of the Tags Tree in Adobe Acrobat

Parts of a Document Tag

In Adobe Acrobat Pro, a document tag is comprised of a couple important parts. The parent tag, the content box, and the Object Reference.

Parent Tag

The parent tag tells a screen reader what the content is. It says, "I am a heading" or "I am a list." These helpful notes allow help screen reader users navigate the document's content more easily. Acrobat Pro has specific tags to use when formatting headings, paragraph text, tables, and other types of a document. All tags are case-sensitive, and any change in capitalization or spacing will result in a custom and incorrect tag. Refer to the following table for tags typically used in Acrobat. 

Typical tags used in Adobe Acrobat
 Element Adobe Acrobat Tag
Heading Level 1<H1>
Heading Level 2 <H2>
Heading Level 3 <H3> 
Heading Level 4 <H4> 
Heading Level 5 <H5> 
Heading Level 6 <H6> 
Paragraph Text <P>
Image, Non-Text Content<Figure>
Table <Table>
Table Header  <TH>
Table Column  <TD>
Table Row  <TR>
List Item<LI>
Table of Contents<TOC>
Table of Contents Item<TOCI>

Content Box

The Content Box connects the content to the tag in the tags tree. Parent Tags that are directly associated with content in your document should have a Content Box as a child tag. 

Object Reference

An Object Reference (i.e. OBJR) is content that may be actionable like a form field or link. The OBJR is necessary because it contains all the information about what to do and any tooltips or help text added (i.e. link to a website, select a radio button, etc.).

Add Links and Form Fields First

Remember, Links and Form Fields should be updated before you make your final document tagging edits.

Check and Update the Tags

If your tags do not look like they are correct. You can update the tag with the correct one. Learn more about the tags tree and how to update tags.

Helpful Hints

  • If you are updating content on a single page or a couple of pages, use the Organize Pages Tool to pull out the single page to re-tag then put it back into the original tagged file.
  • If content is missing from the tags tree, you can use the option to create tag from selection.
  • When tagging a document, be sure to use the approved Adobe Acrobat tag.