Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Are you still distributing documents in .pdf format?

Are you still distributing documents in .pdf format?

Are you still using .pdf documents as the only format for distributing your documents online? Here are some possible implications of such a strategy:

  • Those who prefer to consume content via devices with smaller screens may shy away from downloading your documents because they expect that dealing with rigid pages will be a pain.
  • Those who do download your .pdf document to a mobile device may find dealing with complex pages too much of a hassle. The result: the downloaded document doesn’t get read.
  • Devices that easily resize and recompose responsive or complex .html pages will not be able to work their magic on rigid .pdf pages that are intended to be printed on paper.
  • Users you want to copy or extract a portion of text or a table from your document will be frustrated by the .pdf format.

Taken together none of these will totally kill your distribution and usage cycle. They will reduce to some unknown degree completion of the cycle. That means that some of the time and expense involved in preparing nice looking pages for printing on paper may be wasted when attempting online distribution.

This is one of the reasons why legislation such as the DATA Act encourages submission of data-rich documents to Federal agencies in a non-.pdf format where data can be accurately and efficiently extracted for further database processing.

My personal strategy is straightforward and colored by my own content consumptions practices. During the day if I run across an article online that I want to read later I send it to my Kindle Fire via the “send to Kindle” browser extension after checking that the .html tagged text and accompanying illustrations have been accurately extracted and formatted. That way I can use the Kindle’s built-in navigation, bookmarking, and highlighting tools — tools that don’t work with .pdf.

With my own web site I do publish .pdf versions of longer individual articles because I have found it useful as a marketing tool with some clients to make collections of page-formatted articles available. For example, I recently created a compendium of articles about planning and managing data intensive projects in .pdf form. Still, all the articles in that compendium are available online in standard .html format.

Copyright © 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

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