I am looking for a free (free of charge; open source preferred, but not required) tool that can set the display flags of a PDF file, in particular the flag to automatically display the bookmarks list.

More specifically, it seems1 that I need to set the page mode to UseOutlines.

Both GUI and command line tools are acceptable. The tool should run on Windows or be platform-independent (Java, Mono, ...).


I create PDF documents with LaTeX and the hyperref package, where I can define bookmarks and configure the resulting PDF file to have Acrobat Reader automatically display the bookmarks list upon opening the file.

However, I combine several of these PDF files with pages from other PDF files by using PDF Split and Merge. This preserves the bookmarks (which are apparently considered a part of a page), but does not preserve the overall setting for the file to be opened with the bookmarks list visible.

1: I am not an expert on the PDF file format, so my conclusions are merely based upon looking at the raw contents of PDF files with different settings.

  • I'm not sure (which if why this is a comment instead of an answer), but you may be able to do this using pdftk and the update_info command.
    – Moshe Katz
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 19:34
  • @MosheKatz: That looks promising at first sight. However, this comment suggests the feature had not been added a month ago. Given that it had already been added to the wishlist 5 years ago, I do not expect it to be added to pdftk anytime soon :/ Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 21:47
  • Apache PDFBox seems to have this feature.
    – baitisj
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 8:57
  • @baitisj: This should be an answer. While I am a bit undecided whether I will accept a programming library as the answer on this question (future visitors might not have any programming skills and indeed be looking for a runnable tool), it will certainly be sufficient for my own purposes and thus deserve at least my upvote. Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


Although not a tool in the sense of a compiled and ready-to-use application, it appears that the Apache PDFBox library supports setting of the page mode to use outlines as required in your specification.

Additionally, the PDFBox library is open-source.

  • 1
    It seems like adding a tool to modify PDF flags would be a very useful contribution to the PDFBox project.
    – baitisj
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 9:17
  • Will try this in the next few days, then report back. Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 9:18
  • This works - a simple PDDocument doc = PDDocument.load(inFile); PDDocumentCatalog catalog = doc.getDocumentCatalog(); catalog.setPageMode(PDDocumentCatalog.PAGE_MODE_USE_OUTLINES); doc.save(inFile.replaceFirst(".pdf", ".out.pdf")); does everything I was looking for. As I suggested above, I will not quite select this as an accepted answer yet, for the sake of future visitors, but at least +1 for now. Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 21:56
  • I have ended up accepting this answer as it seems to be the "solution that comes closest to what I was looking for" at this time, for lack of any alternative answers. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 20:20

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