Publishers: How to renumber PDF pages

Following up on last month’s discussion of how to format your PDF metadata, I thought I’d write a second ‘how-to’ guide for those of you who are aspiring (and even experienced) PDF publishers. This time, I’ll take you through the steps on how to properly set your page numbers. 

Many PDFs, particularly RPGs and technical documents, include text that prompts the reader to “go to page 177 to learn more about [fill in the blank]” and such. If you’ve included hyperlinks in your PDF – so that the reader can click on that text and be instantly transported to the appropriate page – that’s great! However, you also need to ensure that the PDF page number matches the document’s actual page number. If your PDF contains a cover page or other front matter that appears before page 1, the numbers won’t match – and your customer can easily become frustrated when trying to find a particular page. See the red circles in Figure 1 below for an example of bad numbering.

Here's an example of bad page numbering.

Figure 1: Here’s an example of bad page numbering.

To renumber the pages in your PDF, just follow the steps below. Note: This guide is based on Adobe Acrobat X on the PC, though it should be functionally similar on the Mac. Images utilize my Corporia RPG core rulebook as an example.

Step One: Open your PDF and determine what page range needs to be renumbered.

Our example, the Corporia RPG, has two pages of front matter: a cover page and a preface page. Including this front matter in the PDF automatically shifts all the page numbers by +2. This means that print page 1 will appear as PDF page 3, print page 17 will appear as PDF page 19, and so on; again, see Figure 1 above.

To fix this, we’ll renumber the front matter (page range 1-2) with lower case Roman numerals. This is the standard numbering convention for front matter, though you can use upper case Roman numerals or even letters, if you really prefer.

Step Two: Go to the Pages panel in the vertical toolbar on the left side of the screen. This is also where you can view the page thumbnails. See the green arrow in the following Figure 2.

Alternately, if you want to create a toolbar shortcut for this now, replace Steps Two and Three with Step Ten, and then proceed to Step Four.

Figure 2: Go to the Pages panel.

Figure 2: Go to the Pages panel.

Step Three: Click on the little Options drop-down menu box that’s immediately adjacent to the Pages icon, and go to Number Pages. See Figure 3, below.

Figure 3: Page Numbering

Figure 3: Page Numbering

Step Four: In the Page Numbering window, type the range of PDF pages in the front matter (unless you’ve actively clicked to select the pages you want to change, which I haven’t done in this guide). In our example, these are PDF pages 1 and 2 (the cover and the preface page). See Figure 4, below.

Step Five: Next in the Page Numbering window, select Begin New Section and choose the style of page numbering for those pages. See Figure 4, below. I’m using lower case Roman numerals, as mentioned above.

Figure 4: Renumber your first section.

Figure 4: Renumber your first section.

Step Six: Now in the Page Numbering window, you can insert a Prefix to come before the page number. This could be a word or number, in case you’re interested in numbering your pages as “Alpha 1” or perhaps “1-1”. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to leave this option blank.

Step Seven: As your last step in the Page Numbering window, you can choose what number you want to Start this section with. In most instances, this will be the number 1. You can also skip the Extend numbering used in previous section to selected pages radial button. Once you have your preferred equivalent of what you see in Figure 5 below, click OK.

Figure 5: Clicking OK will renumber your chosen page range.

Figure 5: Clicking OK will renumber your chosen page range.

Step Eight: After you click OK, you will see that the PDF page numbers below the thumbnails, and in the page number box, have changed. See the green circles in Figure 6 below, and compare them to the previous numbers in Figure 5 above.

Figure 6: Done!

Figure 6: Done!

Step Nine: After you renumber the front matter, the following pages self-correct beginning with page 1. See Figure 7 below. If you have other sections to renumber, you can repeat the steps above to handle those as well. Feel free to experiment with what works best for your book, but that’s really all there is to it!

Figure 7:

Figure 7: Here’s what your good page numbering should now look like.

Step Ten (Bonus): If you’re going to be renumbering more PDFs in the future, customize your toolbar by adding the Number Pages icon. Go to View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Quick Tools. Under Choose Quick Tools to Add, open Document Processing, click on Number Pages, and then click the Right Arrow Button to move this item to your Quick Tools to Show. See Figures 8 to 10, below.

Figure 8

Figure 8: We don’t have a Page Numbering option in the toolbar – yet. See the red circle.


Figure 9

Figure 9: After selecting “Number Pages”, click the right arrow to move it into your “Quick Tools to Show.”


Figure 10: The Page Numbers icon now appears in the toolbar.

Figure 10: The Page Numbers icon now appears in the toolbar. See the green circle.


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