How to create a pop-up window with Adobe InDesign


InDesign has all the tools you need to create functional user interface (UI) elements.

In the article, I will walk you through the steps to create a pop-up window. This can be used for menus, pop-up video players, and “modal” dialogs (for example, alert boxes).

I’ll show you how to do all of this with native InDesign tools so you don’t have to write any code.

Steps to create a pop-up window with InDesign

  1. Create your contextual elements (the message, the dialog box and the illustration of all the buttons) and group them.
    : Create a “background” rectangle that covers the entire page and is partially transparent. Group it behind the rest of your artwork. This will help create an overlay effect to make your pop-up appear up of the content of the other page.
  2. Create a small rectangle with no stroke or fill that doesn’t rest on any significant artwork. It will be the “empty” state when the pop-up window is not displayed.
  3. Select both items, open the Object States panel (Window> Interactive) and use the button at the bottom of the panel to convert your selection to a multistate object (MSO). The MSO will have two states (your illustration and your “empty” state). Give the MSO a clear name in the Object States panel, such as “popup”. Name the state with the clear “empty” rectangle in triple click on the state name, then drag it up to make it the first state. Name your other state “dialogue”.
  4. Create a button and apply a Go to state action, which changes to the “dialogue” state on the “pop-up” MSO. If you created an illustration for a “close” or “ok” button, select that artwork (you may need to double click to navigate to the item and / or press ESC if you enter a text frame or go too far in your selection), open the Buttons and Forms panel (Window> Interactive), click the plus sign (+) and add a Go to state action. Set it to the “empty” state of the “dialog” MSO so that it closes the pop-up when you click on it. If you have created a background item, it is recommended that you also apply this action to that item.

Create a close button for a pop-up window with the Go To State action in the Buttons and Forms panel of InDesign

More after the jump! Read on below??
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The details

Let’s go a little deeper into the concepts of the above steps.

Creation of illustration and conversion to MSO

Multistate objects allow you to change the appearance of your content. It is easier to create complex illustrations first, so convert it to an MSO. Each object state contains separate illustrations and can be edited independently.

Creating an empty state

The “empty” state is part of how you can create magic with MSOs. This brings up a pop-up window out of nowhere. Better yet, having an empty state doesn’t limit you to 2 states. Your MSO can have multiple “visible” states.

It can be tedious to create empty states, so in5 makes this super easy. Once installed, in5 adds a right click option to the Object States panel which will create an empty state for you … even if you are only using the demo version of in5.

InDesign Object States panel showing a right-click context menu choice to add an Empty state to a multistate object (MSO)

I’ll talk a bit more about in5 below.

It’s good to make your blank report small and out of the way so that it doesn’t lean on (and block) other interactive elements on your page.

Add button actions

By changing the state of an MSO, you’ve created dynamic content!

You can even play animations and / or videos once a report is loaded.

You can trigger multiple actions with a single button (including editing multiple MSOs).

The power of MSO + Buttons is enormous and it only takes a few clicks!

How you can publish interactive content with MSOs

The following formats can be exported from InDesign and will support object states and buttons:

  • Publish online
  • EPUB fixed layout
  • HTML5 created with in5

Note that Interactive PDF does not support MSOs and is not recommended.

Publish Online and Fixed Layout EPUB are both native to InDesign. in5 is similar to these options, but is a third-party add-on. in5 allows you to publish to your own website (while Publish Online only works on Adobe servers). in5 also lets you create a lot more interactivity.

Besides letting you create flipbooks, scrolling websites, 3D flip cards, scrolling frames, slideshows, responsive layouts and more; in5 also has a pop-up generator that will do all of the steps listed in this article for you!

Watch this video of the pop-up generator in action.

InDesign UX Design Patterns book cover by Justin Putney
If you liked this article and want to learn how to create other UI elements with InDesign, check out the InDesign UX Design Patterns guide.

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