Smarter accounting

Never send word files

17 May 2018, General

(Almost) Never send word files again

Microsoft Office is really flexible and allows you to make your own customised reports in Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but you may be making a big mistake if you send these files in soft copy.

It is now really easy to convert any file to PDF (Portable Document Format), which allows you to preserve all the formatting and layout decisions you have made.  In the past this required dedicated tools, which came at an additional cost.  PDF conversion is now included as standard in Windows, Mac OS and Microsoft office.  You should never send word files to an external recipient again unless you really have to!

Never send word files containing contracts, your CV or Covering letter.

Why convert to PDF?

PDF files are viewed in Acrobat Reader and can also be opened in other software including Mac OS Preview and web browsers.  It is possible to edit PDF files with specialist software, but typically any PDF you send will not be amended by the recipient and will look exactly the same as it does on your screen.  The reason you should never send word files is that formatting and fonts may be changed, and the recipient could change the text.

As people are increasingly using mobile devices to view emails and documents it becomes even more important to control the appearance of documents.  PDF files will display on mobile devices exactly as they should.

How to convert to PDF?

Windows 10 has a built in PDF printer.  From File > Print choose the Microsoft Print to PDF option.  You can save a MS Word file as a PDF as follows.  The process is similar for other MS Office Applications

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Save As.
    To see the Save As dialog box in Word 2013 and Word 2016, you have to choose a location and folder.
  3. In the File Name box, enter a name for the file, if you haven’t already.
  4. In the Save as type list, click PDF (*.pdf).

Mac OS X also comes with an integrated, but somewhat hidden, possibility to create PDF files.  When you give a print command from within any program (keyboard shortcut: cmd⌘+P) the print window will show a “PDF” button at the bottom left.  Click on this button and choose the Save as PDF option.

To convert a web page to PDF some browsers including Chrome have a PDF printer or you can load CutePDF on your PC to convert any file to PDF.

Soft copies

Documents sent in word or excel format are sometimes referred to as soft copy.  This is because the information is easy to modify.  Soft copies are ideal where you are collaborating with someone to prepare a document, especially if you want to track changes and keep the version history.

The following should never be sent as word files

Unless you actively want the recipient to edit a file, you should send documents as PDF by default.  This is particularly important where you need to control the message, or the document is a formal report:

  • Fee proposals
  • Tender Documents
  • CV and covering letter
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Financial reports
  • Contract
  • Terms of engagement

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