How to set the reading order of a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Setting the reading order can be tricky in a PDF. There are several items to consider including the content panel, the z order panel, and tags panel.

Video Overview of how to set the reading order of a PDF

Match the content panel with the reading order panel

If you’re just starting, it’s best to start adjusting the content panel first. Then, you’ll move on to the read order panel and finish with the tags panel. Most assistive technology will follow the tags panel.

  1. Open up the content view on the far left side (Important: Do not remove anything from the content panel. This could remove it from the document’s structure and cause issues with the document itself.).
  2. Use the down arrow to follow the structure of the content to ensure everything is in the correct reading order.
  3. If there’s anything out of place, move it to the correct spot in the content panel.
  4. Once you’ve finished reordering things in the content panel, check the read order panel to see if the content was updated correctly.
  5. Then, check the tags panel to see if the copy was updated.

Match the reading order panel with the tags panel

Once you’ve ensured everything is in the correct order in the content panel, you’ll want to adjust the reading order panel (z order panel). There are a couple of helpful tools in the reading order panel. Once you’ve selected the reading order panel, here’s how you’ll parse through it:

  1. Select the accessibility button.
  2. From there, select the reading order button.
  3. Choose “Show page content groups” followed by the “Page content order” button in the Reading Order popup. By doing this, you’ll see display boxes of content with numbers on the page for easy viewing of the reading order.

Final Step

Walk the tags panel to ensure everything is in the correct order.

If your document is missing tags – check out the other posts on this page.

Order 508 documents

How do I change the reading order in PowerPoint for Accessibility?

The reading order in PowerPoint is an important criterion for Section 508 and accessibility in general. The reading order will read from the top down, while the arrange panel will read from the bottom up or in reverse order.

This step is much easier if you have already used an accessible slide design theme!

Change the reading order in PowerPoint Video Overview

The video below will show how to set the reading order and arrange order in PowerPoint 365 Desktop version.

Read order vs. Arrange order

PowerPoint has two options for setting the reading order. On PC, the reading order should be set starting with the top and working down through each element.

Reading order panel in powerpoint with an arrow pointing to the top down read order.

The Arrange panel is similar to the Reading order panel and should also be set. On PC this content will read from the bottom element first moving up to the top. (Reverse order)

In the arrange panel the read order starts from the bottom and moves up. This is reverse order from the reading order panel.

How to set the Reading Order in PowerPoint

The quickest method to open the correct menu item is to simply use the search feature at the top of PowerPoint. Type in Reading Order into the search box and select Display the Reading Order Pane.

Use the search feature in powerpoint to search for reading order. Then select display the reading order pane

Setting the order with the Reading order pane

Use the Reading Order panel to ensure the content matches as intended. If content does not match, use the arrows in the Reading Order panel to move objects to the appropriate location. In this example, the order is as follows.

Example of the reading order panel with sample objects.
  1. The Heading
  2. The content panel
  3. another content panel

Validating the order in the Arrange Panel

After you set the order in the Reading Order pane, ensure everything is also correct in the arrange panel. The arrange panel is in reverse, so the first item that will read is the one on the bottom. To get to the arrange panel – follow these steps:

  1. On the Home ribbon select the arrange button
  2. Select the Selection pane
On the Home ribbon select the arrange button
Select the Selection pane

Order 508 documents