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Which should I use? Web page, pdf or Word?

It's always best to consider how the information will be used by the people who visit your website – for example, reading, printing or editing. In general, we recommend the following approach.

Publish web pages by default

Web pages (in html) are readable on any device or platform, can be indexed by search engines, are printable and are straightforward to navigate because they follow established conventions. By publishing information in web pages, instead of dictating the technology required to access the information, you enable people to consume the information in a way that suits them. E.g.:

  • In audio form with screen reader software.
  • On small, medium or large screen devices.
  • With their preferred choice of web browser and display settings.
  • Without having to install extra software.

Use pdf for printed or long documents

Use pdf for documents that are designed to be printed. If you anticipate that your information will only ever be consumed in print, and it matters that the printed file matches your original document exactly, then pdf is a reasonable choice. For example, a research paper with footnotes at the end of each page. Pdfs are readable on most platforms and devices, so most people will be able to print the document.

Note that pdf files typically have larger file sizes, and are therefore slower to load, than web pages. While less accessible than web pages, the text in a pdf is still accessible with screen reader software. Also, as web pages are themselves printable, consider carefully what the rationale for publishing as a pdf is.

Microsoft Word for editing

If you intend people to edit a document, rather than read or print, Microsoft Word is an appropriate choice. Not everyone has Microsoft Word, but OpenOffice and software on Macs can open Word documents.

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