Choosing whether to use a PDF or Word document can be trickier than you might think. Both of these formats work better for some things and worse for others. After you read this, you’ll be able to decide which document format is the best for you, no matter what the document situation may be.
What PDFs Are Great For
- Printable: When you print out a PDF, your printout will look exactly like it did on the screen. PDF documents preserve their formatting, so you don’t have to worry about all the margins and type getting along with your printer. With PDFs, it’s just a matter of hitting print and you know exactly what to expect. Printing is not where you want surprises.
- File size: PDF is one of the most compact file formats. A PDF with 10 images is smaller than a Word document containing those same ten pictures. This is because PDF documents combine other files, compress them and then produce a single document. Keeping file sizes small is good etiquette when you’re sharing documents. Not everybody has a perfect 4G connection all the time, and there’s no sense in needlessly cluttering your own mailbox.
- Online content: PDF is a popular format for sharing files on the internet. Many websites use PDFs to provide price lists, manuals or menus. Not only are PDFs compact, they also look the same on any device and are easy to navigate around.
- Security: People often use PDFs in business. That’s why PDF offers a variety of features to keep your documents safe and secure. For instance, you can add password protection to any document, which keeps your file private even if it ends up in the wrong hands. You can also disable editing to make sure everyone receives the same version you originally sent.
- Merging Different Formats: You can combine many formats within a single PDF document. This means you can use a JPG image as the first page and a Word document as the second. You can also add content from another PDF and finish it off with a table or diagram from Excel.
- Cross Platform Usage: A Word file requires special software to be properly displayed on your device. The appearance of a Word document may be different depending on the program you use. Everything matters, including the version and whatever fonts are installed. On the other hand, there are a lot of free solutions for viewing PDFs no matter what kind of computer or phone you have. The best part is that every PDF-viewer displays documents the exact same way. Once again, this makes PDF the perfect format for document sharing.
- PDFs are Self-Contained: a PDF is perfect for sharing. Not only does it save space on your computer, it also saves you the inconvenience of having to install extra fonts on your PC or phone. A PDF opens and displays as is. This means that it contains all the required information about fonts and positioning. You can call this format Self-Contained.
What Word Documents Are Best For
- Extracting data: You can take and reuse all the data in a Word file. It remains an independent file within a Word document unlike PDFs. All files inside a PDF reside within the main document, which makes it much harder to extract specific information from a PDF.
- Formatting Documents: Word documents are designed for processing text inside a document. That’s why Word offers so many features for text formatting. You can easily change the style, size and font. Other tools such as spell checker help you avoid typos. These settings are intuitive, which makes it easy to edit a Word document. Editing a PDF document requires special software. Unfortunately, these programs usually don’t provide you with all the features an average .doc or .docx editor does.
So Which Format Do I Need?
PDF and Word documents have different niches. The best approach is to use both of them for performing specific tasks. If your texts are read by many people, PDF is the way to go since it saves space. PDFs also guarantee that everyone sees the same image on their screen. On the other hand, if someone will be editing the your documents, Word is the best choice.
PDF is the way to go for these kinds of documents:
- CVs: make sure potential employers don’t see formatting errors;
- Finalized agreements or contracts: everybody gets the same document in its original format;
- Price list: there are never any discrepancies when a PDF is used.
Word documents work better in these cases:
- A preliminary contract: parties can easily amend the contract;
- Rough drafts: it’s still possible to change something;
- Documents that many people collaborate on.
Once your document has passed the editing stage and you’re ready to finalize it, switching from .doc or .docx to PDF is the logical choice. That way you can combine the best of both worlds: collaborating and editing with ease and then converting your document to a PDF once you’ve reached a final version that meets your expectations. Online services such as AltoWordtoPDF can help you do just that.