Introduction to the Navigation File

This Introduction to the Navigation File of an EPUB breaks down the elements that make up this important file.

  • Subject(s):

    Ebook Production

  • Resource Type(s):

    Checklist, Foundations and Rationale, Standards and Best Practices

  • Audience:


Suggested Prerequisites

Before reading this, you might want to read:

The Importance of the Navigation File

The navigation file or navigation document—which is almost always called either nav.xhtml or toc.xhtml in EPUB 3—is an XHTML file that offers a few different ways of navigating a book. It usually contains a table of contents (that is different from the textual table of contents – the contents page that appears in the book), a set of landmarks, and sometimes a page list. Reading systems and software use the navigation file to create the list of links that are usually accessed through a sidebar or top menu. 

When you have a navigation file that is as robust as possible, it ensures that all readers will be able to quickly and easily navigate the book. 

Components of the Navigation File

The table of contents shows the complete list of the headings of the book, and uses a nested list, like:

The landmarks section links to major points of the book’s contents, like the Cover, Front matter, Start of Reading, and Back matter. It does not link to individual parts, chapters, or subsections. When you export from InDesign, the EPUB always has one landmark: to the Cover of the book. This is a great start, but you are encouraged to add more! The page list will link to all the pages of the book. This is a super helpful method of navigation, and is highly recommended! In order to make a page list, you first have to add page breaks to the book – see the InDesign to EPUB category for help on that!

Checklist for a Great Navigation File

Download the Checklist

Download a PDF checklist for a great navigation file.

Next Steps


Step-by-Step Guide for Making Ebooks with InDesign

1.0 Making Ebooks with InDesign – Introduction

Learn how to make ebooks with InDesign with this step-by-step guide from Laura Brady.

Subject(s): InDesign to EPUB
Resource Type(s): Step-by-Step

Guide to Including Accessibility Features in OPF Metadata

Introduction to OPF Metadata

The OPF file contains a lot of important metadata, including basic information about the book, accessibility metadata, and evaluation and conformance metadata! This resource discusses what to include, and how to include it.

Subject(s): Ebook Production
Resource Type(s): Step-by-Step