Working with PDFs and Other Documents

It is strongly recommended that you convert your Excel or Word documents to PDFs before uploading. Many users do not have the ability to view Excel or Word docs on their home computers or mobile devices.

Replace an existing document

  1. Give the new file the exact same filename as the one you are replacing
  2. In the pdfs folder, check the box next to the file you are replacing and click Upload
  3. In the dialog box, check the box next to "Overwrite Existing"
  4. Add your file, then click Upload
  5. Publish the file
  6. Open a new browser window and visit a page that links to your file. Test the link to make sure the new file opens.


All PDFs must follow accessibility guidelines. Here are some basic steps to remedy the most common accessibility issues with PDFs. Note: These instructions are valid for Adobe Acrobat Pro.

1. Set the Title and Language

Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Go to File > Properties 

In the Description tab, type in a Title for the PDF document. The Author can be the department that is responsible for the content. If you're not sure, you can set the author as Harper College. Optional: Enter a short Subject and or up to three Keywords if it would be helpful to include additional information beyond what's in the Title and Author.

Next, click the Advanced tab in the Properties window, and find the dropdown box for Language, and set it to English (or the appropriate language).

When you're done, click OK, the click the Save icon (looks like a floppy disc).

2. Set Structured Types

In Acrobat Pro, click on the Tools > Accessibility. This will open a menu at the right with a number of Accessibility options. Choose Reading Order. This will open the Reading Order window. In the lower half of that window, there is an option to toggle between "Page Content Order" and "Structured Types"....choose "Structured Types".

If the PDF is newer, hopefully its elements are highlighted as paragraphs, headings, figures, tables, etc. In many cases, you will need to identify or revise the structure. To that, draw a box around a block of text so that Acrobat selects the text, then click on the correct button to label it. 

Note: The first heading should always be Heading 1, and there should always be a Heading 1 for every PDF.

3. Set Page Content Order

In the Reading Order window, toggle to Page Content Order. This will display (in numerical order) the order in which all the elements will be read on a screen reader. Then click the Show Order Panel button. The Order Panel on the left shows a list of elements in the order in which they will be read. To change the order, you can drag an element up and down on the list in the Order Panel. Put all the elements in an order that would make the most sense to someone experiencing the document verbally through a screen reader. 

4. Set Alternative Text

For elements that are Figures (including images, illustrations, logos) you may need to set alternative text if the figure is meaningful and important to the understanding of messages within the document.

After you are done, Save and upload your document.