I know how to track clicks in links to pdfs and pfd's downloads.

But I need to track how many times a PDF is opened after being downloaded and if possible track how many times certain pages are shown to users. Tracking has to be done without warnings that personal information is being sent somewhere. I do not want readers personal informations, just to know how many opens happened, so this warnings would be inaccurate.

Can anyone help by pointing to a tutorial or an example?

If you are sure that this can't be done, can you please point to documentation that explains why?

  • Can you explain why you're trying to do this? There may be alternatives to PDFs that are more suitable to your requirements. (PDFs that can simply "phone home" without end-user notification would be a security nightmare...)
    – Charles
    Aug 10, 2011 at 17:39
  • Thanks for your interest. We have a free 40 page paper printed magazine and we allow people to download and read a lowres version, built from the PDF we send to the press. Yes, we are considering other options, including PDF online viewers/embedding in PDF html but that's out of the scope of this question. About privacy, as I said in the question we just need to know how many reads per document, not who has read it.
    – Osvaldo
    Aug 10, 2011 at 18:14
  • I would highly recommend looking at converting your PDF's into a web version, this will give you the flexibility to track opens, page view time etc.. or use a third party product that does this like orangedox.com/dropbox
    – Chad Brown
    Apr 26, 2016 at 20:05
  • Thank you for your recommendation. I know we can do this in a web version and that there's advantages in creating responsive web versions of documents. But this question was about certain contents that we can't do that.
    – Osvaldo
    Apr 28, 2016 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


Adobe have a server product snappily titled "Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management EC2" which aims to provide an audit trail of who has opened and printed a document, and can even revoke reading rights to a PDF file remotely. It's designed to keep confidential documents safe, so it may or may not apply to your situation.

As discussed in "is there a simple way to make a PDF call home?", users generally don't trust PDFs that they suspect to be phoning home, and the technical hurdles of doing it with 'vanilla' PDFs in a wide range of readers don't make it viable:

Yes, you could [phone home] with some embedded JavaScript inside the PDF. However, you won't be able to have this automatically run when the document is opened - the Acrobat JavaScript spec doesn't provide a hook for this. It will allow you to run this check automatically when the document is saved, closed or printed but not when it is opened (probably for security reasons). Alternatively, you could have this check be user-initiated by placing a link/button on the first page of the PDF and run the JavaScript from there.

The 'put a button on the first page of the PDF that runs some JavaScript' idea is a nice one, but...

All of this assumes you're using Acrobat as your reader.

Speaking personally, I haven't had Acrobat installed on my computer for about five years, and know many who avoid it because PDF readers are built into many OSes now. (I use Preview on the Mac.)

Also see "Do PDFs have the ability to phone home" on Super User, which confirms that PDFs don't have the ability to 'phone home' automatically by default without any user intervention at all, except through scripted vulnerabilities that only affect certain PDF readers.

In short, unless you're prepared to use (and pay for) rights management software, and force people who wish to read the PDFs into using a specific reader and following a given set of instructions to open the file, tracking opens and pageviews is difficult or impossible. Unfortunately, that makes it unreliable to the point where it's not likely to prove a useful metric of reader engagement.

If you're looking for some data to provide to partners who place adverts in the PDF, I would suggest: 1. Offering number of downloads per issue. 2. Offering them a tagged link in any PDF ads they place so they can track click-through.

  • Thanks. I already knew how to track links to and from a PDF, but I was looking for answers abouy views. It's amazing how much you can know from a click in an html file and how little you can find out from a PDF.
    – Osvaldo
    Aug 11, 2011 at 14:24

It does not look like it is really viable. I read a number of articles which talked about some sort of beacon with in the document to indicate someone had read it, but the main draw back is that pdf reader warns the user for privacy reasons.

If the document has links back out to the web and the same site you could consider adding URL tracking parameters to those although not as accurate open it could give some form open and read rate.

The link below takes you to a short article discussing the question:

Track who opens a pdf

It would appear simple to track downloads how ever:

Track document downloads Google Analyticsw

  • Thanks. I already knew how to track links to and from a PDF, but your answer may be useful for other webmasters.
    – Osvaldo
    Aug 11, 2011 at 14:22

This is going to sound like a terrible sales pitch, and for that I apologize. However, I, too, was having the same challenges tracking "down stream" opens and activity for PDFs. I, too, looked at Adobe Live Cycle, but we couldn't afford it. However, in the process of researching it, we found a product that licenses one little part of Adobe Live Cycle. The product is called Call-Home and it gave us the ability to track PDFs and MS Office documents. These documents can now phone home every time they are opened by any computer or mobile device connected to the Internet. I don't want to be that guy that posts links to products in forums, but if you Google Call-Home and InDorse Technologies, you'll find it. The product worked great for us, and it was very cost effective for our needs.

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