The Portable Document Format, or PDF, is one of the most important document formats to be able to use, for a number of different reasons, and Microsoft Word allows for a quick and painless conversion method.
The PDF format, developed by Adobe, is best used when, as its name implies, a document is being made “portable” and being sent to another user. The format no longer allows the text to be edited with a cursor, as if the document had been printed out on an actual piece of paper. This freezing of the text is the source of most of the benefits of using the PDF format. Though it is not foolproof, it gives you a level of security when dealing with documents that you do not want altered. Furthermore, it also ensures that any formatting you apply will not be undone, which sometimes happens when a document is transferred between computers running different operating systems (Mac OS and Windows) or different versions of Microsoft Word. On a broader scale, using PDF will not only keep the formatting but guarantee that, when received, the document will actually be able to be opened. Though the majority of computers do have some form of Microsoft Word installed, there is always the possibility that whomever you are sending a document to does not. The Adobe Reader, a program that specifically reads PDF files, is free to download for all operating systems. This however, may not even be necessary as all of the major internet browsers have the ability to open PDF files as well.
In addition to all of the technical benefits of using the PDF file format to transfer documents, there is also an unspoken degree of professionalism inherent. If you know someone well and often communicate, it might be easier to use a previously agreed upon format such as .doc, but when dealing in the business world, it is the norm to use PDF, especially if sending someone a document for the first time. If sending a resume, it appears very amateur if the document is sent and all of the aligning, centering and italicizing of your credentials you spent hours fine-tuning is lost, creating a messy jumble of text. Using PDF shows that you have thought about all of this and ensures that when you communicate, it is simple and efficient.
When it comes time to actually create the PDF document, the latest version of Microsoft Word allows users to simply go to “Save As…” and choose their format from a number of available ones, including PDF. It is important to note though, whenever saving a document as a PDF, be sure it is first saved in a format you can edit, such as .doc or .docx, depending on your version of Word. If you fail to do this when saving it for the first time, the security of the PDF format will backfire, not allowing you to make any more changes to the document, even though you were the original creator. If you do find an area you wish to change, it is as simple as reopening the Word file, making the changes and re-saving it as a PDF.
In short, no matter what kind of document you might be creating, it is always handy to have a copy of it in Adobe’s Portable Document Format. With the size of hard drives today, the tiny size of documents and ease of creating them, there is no reason not to back-up all of your files in a PDF.