Overview of the PDF tags

This overview shows the most important tags from the PDF 1.7 standard. The reference helps you to choose the correct and semantic tags.

This overview shows the most important tags from the PDF 1.7 standard. The reference helps you to choose the correct and semantic tags.

The tags listed below correspond to the ISO standard PDF 1.7. In 2018 the newer standard PDF 2.0 has been published. In this standard, some of the tags described here have been removed and new ones have been added. Since the standard is not yet widely used and a revision of the PDF/UA standard is still open, this overview still corresponds to PDF 1.7.

Not included in the overview are the PDF tags

  • NonStruct (Grouping element)
  • Private (Grouping element)
  • H (Block-level structure element)
  • BibEntry (Inline-level structure element)
  • Ruby, RB, RT, RP, Warichu, WT, WP (Inline-level structure element)

because they are not recommended or not relevant for use.

It is obvious that grouping elements basically contain block elements and block elements basically contain inline elements. The standard does not always clearly specify which constellations are possible. The illustrative elements can function as block or inline elements.

The third and fourth columns of the overview show semantically meaningful combinations. Although the standard allows other constellations, they are not considered semantically meaningful. However, no guarantee is given for completeness.

Practical examples and further informations can be found in the document “Tagged PDF Best Practice Guide: Syntax” of the PDF Association.

Grouping elements

PDF tagSemantic meaningPossible and semantically meaningful parent elementsPossible and semantically meaningful child elements
DocumentRepresents a complete documentGrouping elements, Block-level structure elements
PartDivision of a larger document into smaller, associated partsDocumentArt, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Caption, TOC, Index, Block-level structure elements
ArtParts of content which together are conclusive, i.e. an article or part of a documentDocument, Part, Sect, Div, BlockQuoteSect, Div, BlockQuote, Caption, TOC, Index, Block-level structure elements
SectGrouped related content parts, for example several paragraphs, which can be combined into a groupDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuoteArt, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Caption, TOC, Index, Block-level structure elements
DivGeneric group element without semantic meaningDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuoteArt, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Caption, TOC, Index, Block-level structure elements
BlockQuoteOne or more paragraphs that originate from another author, in other words, that have been quotedDocument, Part, Art, Sect, DivArt, Sect, Div, Caption, Block-level structure elements
CaptionA caption to describe for example a picture or a tableDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Table, LSect, Div, BlockQuote, Block-level structure elements
TOCContainer for table of contents entries. Can be used either as a flat hierarchy (all contained TOCI on one level) or as a complex hierarchy (TOC within a TOCI as a subgroup). Can be contained multiple times in a document, since it can also be used for image or table directories.Document, Part, Art, Sect, DivTOCI
TOCIEntry within a table of contents (TOC).TOCTOC, P, Lbl, Reference
IndexContainer for a subject indexDocument, Part, Art, Sect, DivL

Block-level structure elements

Paragraph elements

PDF tagSemantic meaningPossible and semantically meaningful parent elementsPossible and semantically meaningful child elements
POrdinary paragraphDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, Caption, TOCIInline-level structure elements
H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6Hierarchical headings on levels 1 to 6Document, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuoteInline-level structure elements

List elements

PDF tagSemantic meaningPossible and semantically meaningful parent elementsPossible and semantically meaningful child elements
LList container; groups together all list elements that belong togetherDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, IndexLI, Caption
LIContainer of a list entry; can contain an L to create multi-level listsLLbl, LBody, L
LblComes from the term “label” and represents the numbering or bullet character within a list. It’s not actually a block-level structure element and can also be used in other elements such as TOCI or Caption.LI
LBodyContains the contents of a list entryLIInline-level structure elements

Tabellenelemente

PDF tagSemantic meaningPossible and semantically meaningful parent elementsPossible and semantically meaningful child elements
TableTable container; combines all related table elementsDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuoteTR, Caption, THead, TBody, TFoot
TRGroups a table rowTable, THead, TBody, TFootTH, TD
THTable heading cell; describes the meaning either at horizontal (line) or vertical (column) levelTRInline-level structure elements
TDOrdinary table data cellsTRInline-level structure elements
THeadA group of table rows (TR) to mark them as table header; can be used optionallyTableTR
TBodyA group of table rows (TR) to mark them as table content; can be used optionallyTableTR
TFootA group of table rows (TR) to mark them as table footer; can be used optionallyTableTR

Inline-level structure elements

PDF tagSemantic meaningPossible and semantically meaningful parent elementsPossible and semantically meaningful child elements
SpanGeneric container without semantic meaning; is used, among other things, for visual markups, language changes or for adding ActualText (e.g. for ignoring hyphens)P, H1H6, LBody, TD, Quote, Note
QuoteUsed like BlockQuote for quoted content; however, Quote is used at line levelP, H1H6, LBody, TDSpan
NoteFootnote or endnote text (not the reference character in the body text). The footer/end-note character within Note and Reference will be placed in a Lbl.P, H1H6, LBody, TDLbl, P, Span
ReferenceRefers to another place in the document, e.g. footnote or directory entryP, H1H6, LBody, TDLbl
CodeMarking of programming languageP, H1H6, LBody, TD
LinkLink to a web page or to a place within the documentP, H1H6, LBody, TD
AnnotAnnotations that are not a link or a widget (form field), like comments and videos.P, H1H6, LBody, TD

Illustration elements

PDF tagSemantic meaningPossible and semantically meaningful parent elementsPossible and semantically meaningful child elements
FigurePhoto or graphicDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, P, LBody, TD
FormulaMathematical formulaDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, BlockQuote, P, H1H6, LBody, TD
FormForm elementDocument, Part, Art, Sect, Div, P, TD