For certain industries and user-bases, it can make sense to include a link to a PDF version of a HTML web page — so that visitors can either view or download it.

From a recognizability and familiarity perspective, what should the link text say when leading to a PDF?

Brainstormed phrases and words to use

In my case, I would accompany it with a recognizable icon such as: PDF icon image

A few text variations that I came up with:

  1. PDF PDF icon image
  2. See PDF PDF icon image
  3. View PDF PDF icon image
  4. Save PDF PDF icon image
  5. Open PDF PDF icon image
  6. Browse PDF PDF icon image
  7. Download PDF PDF icon image

But there are likely many more potentially good options.

Variations of those phrases

All of the above could work without "PDF", for example:

Also, they can feature a preposition or conjunction like "as" or "in", for example:

That can be extended with natural language, for example:

Given all the possibilities, what is the best practice considering user-behaviour or user-research?

Considering people on different devices

To find the "best" term, I think it is important to suit people:

  • with different browser defaults (whether the file will be downloaded or opened in a new tab/window),
  • on various devices (such as PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc.),
  • and using certain operating systems (e.g. Mac OS X arguably handles PDFs much better than Windows, which tends to crash PCs).

Without any tangible data to use to make a decision here — I am unsure how to proceed.

What do industry leaders do?

Have the practices of what "big players" and influencers (creators of various platforms for blogs, forums, frameworks, even operating systems, etc.) do when linking to PDFs been quantified or qualified?

It may also be worth including the file-size or file-name, but that is covered elsewhere.

  • In my experience with dozens of different sites, I instantly understand the PDF icon, but seldom does the text by it represent what happens when the link is clicked; I think clicking will download, and it displays, other times I think it will display, and it opens an email... so this is a question I think 99% of sites need to read! Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:42

5 Answers 5


My recommendation would be to go for Natural language options such as "Download this page as a pdf" as it gives a textual representation of what you would get when you download the pdf. You also need to realize that unless your ALT tag is well defined for the pdf image, having a textual description along with the image would be helpful for screen readers . To quote article on increasing usability for screen readers

Descriptive link text

Screen reader users can browse through web pages by calling up a list of on-page links, and activating the link in which they're most interested. As such, non-descriptive link text such as ‘click here’ should be avoided at all costs as it makes no sense whatsoever out of context.

The good news is that the use of descriptive link texts represents a usability benefit for everyone. When we scan through web pages, one of the items that stands out to us is link text. ‘Click here’ is totally meaningless to web users scanning through pages and forces users to hunt through surrounding text to discover the link destination.

Do note that some browsers render the pdf in the page itself and might not download it and you would have to update your htaccess file to ensure the file is downloaded by the browser. So choose your wordings wisely depending upon what browsers are being used by your user base and also ensure your htaccess is updated accordingly.

  • Commands in .htaccess are only relevant if it's an Apache server (Windows IIS will have other commands), but a good answer otherwise!
    – Baumr
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 12:15
  • No problem, the PDF icon could also be included as a CSS background image, which doesn't have an alt attribute — so using that for "Save as a <icon>" wouldn't be good.
    – Baumr
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 12:20

I would go with some phrasing of "View PDF", or "View as PDF" because:

For certain industries and user-bases, it can make sense to include a link to a PDF version of a HTML web page — so that visitors can either view or download it.

The browser and installed PDF viewer will handle this according to defaults (Which means only to view and not download.

Once the PDF is open in any PDF viewer:


As seen in Adobe

Internet Explorer: Internet Explorer 9

They will have obvious clues as to what else can be done with the document.

If you are going to save by default, then use Save As PDF, if the default action defined by the site is to view it, then use View As PDF or similar.

In short, be as specific as possible.

Open, suggest a third part application popping up to show the document. I would avoid Open unless you are specifically trying to open it in another instance of browser, a new application, or a new always separate tab.

Google for example shows that you are opening a link that is a PDF: enter image description here

If it said "Save PDF" and instead opened in a browser it would be counter-intuitive. Instead it says PDF and opens in the browser (Assuming the user does not have software to do something non-standard).


The user may do many things with the PDF document, but I don't see any reason that you need to refer to any specific action. Simply state what the link is or use a very general action (like 'get') if you feel the need for an verb.

So, I would suggest using:

PDF of this page enter image description here
Get PDF of this page enter image description here

The example that you gave of just 'PDF' is simple enough to understand, but it isn't clear what the PDF would be of, and so I would avoid that to try minimise confusion.


I agree with JohnGB on naming the link to what it is, but I would also consider using the word "Save" or "Download" to it, if you expect your users to have an urge of saving/keeping it on their disk.

a. Save this page as PDF enter image description here

b. Download this page as PDF enter image description here

c. View this page as PDF enter image description here

Keeping the format name ("PDF") in the end of the string also makes it easier browsing for the command, if you will provide a list of downloads in different formats:

Here's an example of how they currently do Downloading in Google Drive (Google Document):

enter image description here

  • 1
    I'm partial to "View as PDF" over you other suggestions because it's the most agnostic RE view in browser vs download. "Get/Access page as PDF" would be better from that standpoint; but I'd worry about unconventional phrasing confusing non-technical users. Commented May 13, 2013 at 16:01

"PDF of this Page" and "View Page as PDF" are Good enough.

Google shows options for HTML verions (Standard Version and HTML Version) in Gmail. You may think of adding PDF option (Website/Page View: HTML | PDF)

Gmail Footer

  • I would posit that Gmail's footer is aimed more at power users
    – Baumr
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 11:51
  • agreed :) .. It Took good amount of time to know this feature..
    – Awesh
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 12:13

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