Expand or collapse PDF bookmarks and retain that state

So you like PDF bookmarks?

And you like to expand and collapse them to your liking?

And you’d also like the PDF file to save and retain this state of bookmarks?!

Hmm… you sound pretty finicky about your settings, just like I am 😀

Every time you open a PDF file, the bookmarks as displayed as set by the author/generating-application. The changes you make, while reading it, do not show up the next time! This is what I do to make the PDF file retain my changes to the bookmarks.

  1. In Acrobat Professional expand and collapse the bookmarks as you want. This is a change in the PDF, but not yet recorded thus by Acrobat. Hence Acrobat will not prompt you to save it.
  2. Click File > Save As, and save the PDF as a PDF again. The changes to bookmarks are saved!
  3. (Optional) Thank the community, for sharing such great tips with us all.

Tip: Keyboard shortcut to quickly collapse all your bookmarks to top-level bookmarks: Select any bookmark and press Shift + / on number pad. Use the forward slash on the number pad.

Update: Embedding my video on the same topic in the post.


Author: AshishG

See http://about.me/guptaashish

21 thoughts on “Expand or collapse PDF bookmarks and retain that state”

    1. Brilliant! Doing a ‘Save As’, after changing the bookmarks, works just fine!
      Thanks. I am modifying the steps above, including the optional one 🙂

      I so like crowd-sourcing.


  1. I’ve tried this solution a number of times now (Collapes all bookmarks,make a small change, save, close and re-open), with no success, all the bookmarks stay expanded. Is this an Acrobat Pro X problem, that it won’t save?
    Any other solutions to this problem?


  2. Thanks for the tip, I was going mad already.

    For Foxit Reader (6.0.3):
    – Toggle bookmarks as you want.
    – Add empty bookmark.
    – Save document, giving it a new name to keep oriignal document (just in case…).
    – Open newly created document.
    – Remove empty bookmark.
    – Save document again.
    Maybe saving/reopening the temporary version in between is not necessary at all.


    1. Michael, I tried the steps you listed here using PhantomPDF Express v5.5.6.218, but they did not work to keep the bookmarks collapsed. Any idea why? Thank you very much.


      1. Hello James,
        I don’t know anything about PhantomPDF, I think this all depends on the particular implementation of the PDF-Viewer. Maybe it will not work in the next version of Foxit anymore…
        Probably you can convert the document using Foxit and then PhantomPDF will show the bookmarks as you saved it?


    1. Hi Christopher! I tried the above workflow using the free Foxit Reader. It did not work for bookmarks. I am not sure about their paid Enterprise offerings. Do let us know what you find in your research.


  3. I just realized a much quicker way to do this!

    Change the bookmarks’ expansion, annotate the PDF file, and save it. That’s it.

    If you do not wish any annotations showing up, then delete it and again save the PDF file.


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