How to make PDF documents accessible to screen readers (NVDA, JAWS)

In this tutorial, we’ll take a quick look at the accessibility features of FlowPaper. FlowPaper Elements has the ability to convert PDF documents into interactive publications and makes sure that the text is readable by the most popular screen readers such as JAWS and NVDA. It does this by converting the PDF document into HTML5 snippets that are readable by the screen reader software. Many PDF documents are fragmented in their texts and Elements also makes sure that words are not “chopped up” into pieces that make them hard to read for screen readers. For example, the word banana may be represented in a PDF in single characters (“b”-“a”-“n”-“a”-“n”-“a”) as opposed to kept as a word, making it hard to listen to when read out by a screen reader.



Getting started

To get started. Download the desktop publisher from our download page and click the “Import PDF” button to import an existing PDF document. You can also choose to select a number of documents if you want the desktop publisher to join them together.


Selecting project type

The  next step is to select project type for our publication. Make sure you select the second project template (“Elements – Flat”) since this is the viewer we want to use. Only the Elements viewer supports screen readers fully at this stage.



Choosing font conversion

Choose a font conversion method that suits your publication. We recommend using the fonts in the PDF per default but you can also choose to import them from a URL or to match the fonts from our font library to different fonts.




Turn on the accessibility features

Now that we have our document imported, it is time to turn on the accessibility features available. Make sure you have switched on “Improved Accessibiltiy” under “Behaviour” on the left hand side of the publisher as well as “Text to Speech” under controls on the right hand side. Turning on the “text to speech” on the right hand side will give you a speech icon in the tool bar of the viewer that you can click on to hear the current page read out using the built in screen reader of the browser.




Publish and Listen

Now that we have our document prepared – its time to publish and listen to the result. Click the “Publish” button in the top right corner to finalize your publication. Click the “View in Browser” button to preview the publication in your preferred web browser. Click the speech button to test each page read out or use your screen reader to read out each open page in the publication.

Convert PDF to EPUB3 with fixed and reflowable layout

There are a range of tools available for converting PDF documents to ePUB3 on the market today, but very few actually preserve the layout and fonts of your documents in a way which makes them useful for professional publications. In this tutorial we’ll go through the basics of converting a PDF document using the FlowPaper Desktop Publisher.

To get started, simply download the desktop publisher from our download page and create a “free/trial” account to log in. You should see the desktop publisher grid once this is done.


Importing your PDF

Click on “Import PDF” in the top and select the PDF document that you would like to convert when the import PDF dialogue appears.





Choosing ePUB template

ePUB3 supports both fixed and reflowable layouts. Our next step is to choose a layout model that suits our document. The rule of thumb is that graphical or complex publications should typically use the fixed layout. Books and more textual publications should typically use the reflowable layout format. We will use the fixed layout format for this demonstration.





Choose how to import your fonts

The desktop publisher is able to handle fonts in 3 different ways. It can either import the fonts from your PDF, switch to similar fonts or use fonts from a url. The default choice here is to use the fonts in your PDF document. We’ll select “Use fonts in the PDF” for this demonstration. This option preserves all fonts so that they look just like in your PDF document.





Preview and edit the imported result

You can now preview edit your document before exporting it as a ePUB3 publication. The buttons “Preview” and “Edit” in the top right corner allows you to edit and preview each page. You can also add links, images and videos to the publication.





Prepare your final copy

Once you’re happy with how the publication looks, click the “Publish” button in the top right corner. This will take you to the final publishing dialogue which prepares the final ePUB file for you. Finalize by clicking the “Publish” button.


Voila! your ePUB file is ready to be distributed. Here’s a preview of our test ePUB file in Apple iBooks:

FlowPaper 2.5.3 Release Notes

We’re pleased to announce our newest version of FlowPaper with a number of what we think are great improvements. The focus during January has been to implement a new compression and flatten mode for Zine which is now available in the desktop publisher. This new mode flattens the PDF and makes it possible to zoom to infinite levels on all devices and platforms.

Here are the most important changes for this release:

  • New import dialogue for Zine in the Desktop Publisher that presents a number of new options including the ability to overwrite previously imported PDFs and
    the ability to flatten PDFs file when importing them. The flatten mode reduces their size and improves speed dramatically, similar to how the Elements viewer already works.
    The flatten import option also improves zoom for all mobile devices to infinite levels and stays sharp at all zoom levels.
  • The Zine import mode in the desktop publisher will now ask if you want to overwrite existing publications if a PDF with the same name has previously been imported (Desktop Publisher)
  • Improved rendering accuracy in flip book mode for Elements to avoid pixel rounding when flipping pages (Desktop Publisher)
  • Improved accuracy for Elements in texts that are starting with negative x-adjustments (Desktop Publisher)
  • Improved accuracy for measuring standard font (Helvetica, Times, etc.) widths in Elements publications (Desktop Publisher)
  • Updated the video player for self hosted videos (Zine, Elements)
  • Fixed an issue related to Safari not fitting some pages properly in Zine for differently sized publications (Desktop Publisher)
  • Fixed an issue where two-fold publications were coming through with the incorrect height specified causing added links to be mispositioned
  • Fixed an issue where two-fold publications were not adjusting their TOC (bookmarks table) properly (Zine, Elements)
  • Fixed an issue where two-fold publications were not rendering the correct number of pages in Elements (Desktop Publisher)
  • Fixed a regression issue related to two-fold publications adjusting their sizes incorrectly causing some images to appear in incorrect places (Zine)
  • Fixed a few issues related to the cloud upload sometimes not providing feedback on progress (Desktop Publisher)
  • Fixed an issue where the publisher would use the wrong standard font (Times, Helvetica etc) in certain cases (Elements, Zine)
  • Fixed an issue where the search abstract would unnecessarily shrink the viewer (Zine)
  • Fixed an issue where ‘Disable Mouse Wheel Zooming’ would still prevent the default event from firing (Zine)
  • Fixed an issue where two-fold publications would not adjust their link targets properly in Elements publications (Elements)
  • Fixed an issue where adding annotations to certain publications would cause the text on their subsequent pages to be missing (Zine)
  • Fixed an issue where obfuscated/read-only publications would become corrupted when applying new import settings in the desktop publisher (Elements)