The Portable Document Format (PDF) dates from the early 1990s and was developed with one main goal – ensuring consistent formatting.
For those using digital documents at that time, you surely are aware that sharing documents between different computers and operating systems could be a nightmare.
Since then, PDF documents have grown in popularity and today they are one of the most widely-used document formats.
While MS word is indeed the most famous word processor, even its users turn to PDF when they need to send certain data such as bills or handouts.
While PDFs have proven useful for many professionals and companies in the business world, they are also quite common among university students and novel readers who prefer reading on their tablets or phones. PDF files have found their way, and are preferred by the legal, medical and real-estate industries to schools and colleges, small businesses, and large enterprises.
If you are wondering why the PDF files are so popular, check the 5 major advantages of sending a PDF document over Word document.
1. Consistent Formatting
A few days ago, I needed to convert a PDF to Word and send it to a client. While the output file was visually OK on my PC and the Microsoft Word version I have, it was messy on the client’s Mac, and the older version (2011) of MS Word he had.
Digital documents need to be reliable and flawless in order to have the same value as paper ones. However, sharing and opening them across different devices and operating systems does not always go as intended. This is often the case with documents created with Microsoft Word or other word processors. Sending a Word document to another user who hasn’t got the same app or the same fonts installed on their device, will most likely go awry. With the changed format you risk confusion and bad impression, which I assume it’s not something that you’d like.
As mentioned earlier, the need for consistent formatting is what brought about the creation of the PDF files, so it is its first and topmost advantage over Word documents. Regardless of your recipients and their device, the PDF document’s format remains intact. PDF documents are self-contained, which means the file itself includes all the formatting, fonts, and layout designs. So, you can rest assured that your file will be seen exactly as you created it.
Note that the formatting is also a very delicate matter when it comes to printing out documents, not just sharing them. Even if you use the same computer, using a different printer can cause changes to the format of Word documents. To ensure reliability, converting your .doc file into .pdf is warmly recommended.
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For researchers and report writers: References Can Easily Become Mismatched!
When opening a word document on another device it’s very likely that your table of contents will look like a mess as page numbers can change in long documents.
Need I say more?
2. Universal Compatibility
In line with formatting, PDF documents also provide a universal compatibility. What’s the use of taking care of the format if the recipient is actually unable to view your document at all? PDF files are compatible with all major operating systems and usually come with pre-installed apps that can easily open PDFs. The PDF files have received an extensive support in all sorts of apps with their becoming an open standard back in 2008.
Majority of the modern browsers are fully capable of opening and showing PDF files. This makes sure that the same PDF file can be easily opened on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and will look exactly the same. What’s more, you won’t have any issues opening the files even on mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android and you’ll have a lot of the same functionalities available on a desktop.
This cannot be claimed for Word documents at all times. Older versions are unable to properly open files created in new versions. For instance, a simple word document created in Word 2010, when opened in older versions will lack spaces. While you may find it easy and convenient to edit a document in Word, saving it on a Mac will not ensure that it will appear the same on another operating system. The compatibility that PDF files offer also refers to preserving all the visual elements created in other documents before you convert them to PDF. So, this makes it a very convenient and appropriate choice for sharing digital documents.
3. Multi-dimensionality (versatility of interactive functions)
A rather useful benefit of PDF files lies in their multi-dimensionality.
PDF files are designed to support text, various image types, slides, vector graphics, HTML code, and so on.
With the latest version of Adobe Acrobat, you can add hyperlinks, rich media, music, movies, and many other advanced features to your PDF.
While you may argue that some of the items can be added on Word documents as well, the integration is not the same. When you add different types of content such as images, videos, graphics, and animations to your PDF file, you can be sure that it won’t ruin the format of the document.
In addition to the interactive elements that can be employed, PDF files are suitable for making reports, portfolios, and presentations, so that you do not need to rely on different software for different tasks. This is a clear plus for PDF files over Word documents.
Additionally: Why PDF is a better choice for data entry situations:
- Fixed fields – ensures nothing can be accidentally deleted or omitted;
- Step-by-Step Guides – freely add margin notes to guide users through complicated forms;
- Formulas – instantly add sales tax or calculate exchange rates on an invoice;
- Signature – possibility to add a digital signature on contracts and personal documents.
Another extremely important advantage of PDF over Word documents is the high level of security it offers.
PDF files can be easily secured with a password to protect any document from unauthorized access so you can freely share them afterwards.
This is especially important for industries and businesses that keep sensitive and confidential data or intellectual copyrights. Additionally, adding digital signature is used as a means to confirm the authenticity of a document.
Apart from using a password, you can also give limited access to users so they will only be able to view the files but cannot make any changes to them.
Note that it is the possibility to secure files and make sure that they cannot be altered without leaving an electronic footprint that has made PDF files the choice of most of the legal professionals.