Ask LazyWeb: InDesign Experts Edition: Complex hyperlinks and exporting to PDF.

Greetings, all!

I know that there might be one or two other InDesign experts out there reading this, and I figured that, instead of polling individually and perhaps missing other closet experts, I’d post here.

I’m working on a multi-hundred page document that is ultimately destined for PDF (not .epub, not .mobi, but PDF) publication. It contains several hundred internal and external hyperlinks. The internal hyperlinks are all handled, thanks to the wonder of bookmarks. And 99+% of the hyperlinks are handled, except for a few that match a very distinct pattern. Those few little hyperlinks are causing me a world-class headache.

The problem is the way the hyperlinks are structured. They aren’t your standard links with just alphanumerics, dashes, and dots. Instead, they’re complex links that contain multiple variables destined to be parsed by a script, and therefore contain question marks (?) and ampersands (&). When exporting the document to PDF, InDesign is completely stripping the aforementioned question marks and ampersands from the URLs. This, as you can imagine, is not working so well.

Here’s what I’ve tried so far, with no luck:

  • Escaping the special characters with a backslash
  • Doubling the special characters
  • Quoting the entire URL with double quotes
  • Quoting the entire URL with single quotes

Is my client (and hopefully not my project) just doomed, or is there a magic trick around this that I’ve missed? Is the answer really going to be that InDesign can’t handle a URL style that’s been around for eons, and that my client just needs to suck it up and simplify the URLs? (For the really curious, the URLs are used for click tracking. Of course.)

Help me, oh great and powerful interwebs.

( InDesign CS6 (version 8.0.1) , Mac OSX 10.8.3.)


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