I have been asked to add an interactive map to my company's annual report.

The requirements are that it should have multiple layers that can be turned on and off, zoom in/out and pan functionality, and clickable points on the map that will display images.

It must be entirely standalone as there's no guarantee that the reader will be connected to a network when they're viewing the document.

Any suggestions?

10 Answers 10


I'd look into geoPDF it allows embedding a georeferenced data in a PDF and can handle everything you've asked for.

I'm not sure on the ins and outs of creating one, but might be somewhere to start from.

Linky : http://www.terragotech.com/products/terrago-toolbar

  • 4
    I think it's worth looking into Geospatial PDF too. From Wikipedia: "The proprietary Terrago GeoPDF should not be confused with the open Adobe standard Geospatial PDF which was introduced by Adobe with the release of Adobe Acrobat 9 Reader and Professional. The Adobe Geospatial PDF is similar to the Terrago GeoPDF however it does not require the use of any specialized or proprietary plugins ..."
    – underdark
    Aug 24, 2010 at 21:15
  • 5
    Great suggestion are there any opensource implementations of producing a Geospatial PDF ? C# Library or such?
    – Jamo
    Aug 25, 2010 at 3:34

I'd certainly go for PDF, and use FME to create it - with FME you can turn any spatial data into a 2d or 3d PDF.

Click here to see how FME works with ArcGIS

The display images I'm not so sure. You can create links on a PDF, but if they aren't connected to a network that doesn't help.

However, I bet you could write the images separately into an index in the doc, then write references to them.

(Disclosure: I am an employee of Safe Software who make FME.)

  • 1
    Hi Mark, sounds like a good solution. Thanks for disclosing your affiliation as well, much appreciated.
    – scw
    Aug 17, 2010 at 9:32
  • Do you have an example pdf file? I could not see any on the link you provided.
    – johanvdw
    Feb 15, 2011 at 6:14

ArcMap (I'm using 9.3.1) is able to export a multi-layered PDF from an MXD document. In the File menu, select Export Map. In the dialog, select PDF as type, and, at the bottom, switch to Advanced tab. Set Layers and Attributes drop-down to either "Export PDF Layers Only" or "Export PDF Layers and Feature Attributes" depending on your need. Check Export Map Georeference Information if needed, then hit Save. In Acrobat Reader (I'm using 9), the Layers navigation panel on the left should be accessible. Enable it and the you'll be able to turn layers on and off.

  • 2
    Yeah, but you can not have interactive links to images this way, can you?
    – nature
    Aug 18, 2010 at 8:01
  • Well, you can definitely create link within Acrobat Pro with the link tool. This can be time consuming if there are a lot of features. I am not sure how ArcMap is handling links created with hyperlink tool when exporting the map to PDF.
    – GuillaumeC
    Aug 18, 2010 at 9:08

Avenza's MAPublisher is also able to export a Geospatial PDF from within Adobe Illustrator preserving the map's attributes within the PDF. The user can view both coordinates and browse object properties using acrobats 'object data tool'.

You'll have to import your map into Illustrator using the MAPublisher import tool, make any modifications you need using Illustrator, then simply click on the 'Export Geospatial PDF' tool and you're done.

The geospatial PDF documents work with Acrobat 9 and above, and do not require any additional plug-ins.


Sounds like GeoPublisher http://en.geopublishing.org/features can do what you need. Alternatively you're looking at running GeoServer or MapServer on a Live-DVD with an OpenLayers front end. If you go down that route you may want to check out the OSGEO live-dvd as a starting point http://live.osgeo.org/.

  • I need to research this a bit more thoroughly, but I don't think that either solution will work for me. Our target market is very unsophisticated so my directive is to embed the map into the PDF, which appears to be impossible for either GeoPublisher or OSGEO. I could add a link to the GeoPublisher document from the PDF (which might work), but I can't imagine our target market being able to boot from a LiveCD to view the annual report/map. Again, I'll continue to research and thanks for the tips. Aug 16, 2010 at 23:01

Create an interactive map, manually, using Flash, and embed it into the PDF.

To do so, first extract each layer as an image, ensuring that you use an image format that allows for transparent colors (PNG in this case). Then, combine these layers into Flash in the correct order, create your own zoom/pan functionality, and manually add points to the map to indicate that an image exists at that location. Finally, create an image viewing mechanism so that when a user clicks on an icon on the map, the appropriate image appears.

To insert the map into a PDF, first Publish your Flash application. Open Adobe Acrobat and click the Add Movie button (looks like a film strip) while on a blank page, then locate the SWF file that you created and select it. Save the PDF and your users will now be able to see the map inside the document.

This is the solution I came up with, but I won't accept this as an answer since it still doesn't feel right; plus, it's tedious to do all of the processing and programming manually rather than having a real GIS solution for this problem.


I want to comment on Michael Todds mis-assumtion, that Geopublisher creates LiveCDs.

It creates Stand-Alon applications that can be started from the web via Java Web Start or distributed on DVD, USB-Stick, EMail etc.

Geopublisher allows to link PDFs to objects in your map but you are looking for PDF as a container.

So it's probably not the perfect solution for you.


If you have adobe acrobat pro, you can layer different PDFs on top of each other. Then add buttons to set the viability of layers (on and off). I used this video as a foundation, then got more complex from there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEyJuT8SSME


To make an interactive map, upload your layers on ArcGIS online and save and share it. This will be also available online.

  • 3
    Is there a way to make ArcGIS Online available offline? That was one of the initial requirements, that the map be available offline. Dec 17, 2012 at 15:24

You can also read an interesting high quality page for c# add a picture to a pdf document on http://www.rasteredge.com/how-to/csharp-imaging/pdf-add-image/

  • That might answer the question, but link only answers are generally discouraged. Apr 20, 2016 at 9:34
  • This doesn't meet the requirements for the question. It does not allow multiple layers to be turned on or off and it doesn't provide the ability to click an image to get details about a point on the map. Instead, it appears to be a programming tool to allow someone to add an image to a PDF. This is not remotely what was asked in the question. Apr 20, 2016 at 15:25

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