Perception or Reality? Debating Perceptions for PDF vs Word

By Author thumbnail image Emily Shaw | on

Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) and Microsoft's Word document formats (such as DOC and DOCX) are two widely used document formats. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we'll look at some of the most common use cases for PDFs versus Microsoft Word document formats and how they match up with common perceptions.

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Source: Unsplash/Bradley Pisney

The Main Difference Between PDF and Word Documents

Despite the fact that PDF and Word document files are both major file formats for editing and reading written documents, they are each distinct. For starters, separate software companies created each format. Adobe Systems devised and developed both the PDF and Adobe Acrobat to edit PDF files. On the other hand, Microsoft designed and developed both DOC (the original Word document format) and Microsoft Word, a document editor.

Perhaps the most common perception of PDF versus Word is that the PDF is a document format that is easily viewed, whereas a Word document is a file format that is designed to be edited. This perception is mostly accurate. Each company also created software that allows users to create documents according to their preferences. Adobe Acrobat may be used to edit and read PDF files. Meanwhile, Microsoft Word may be used to read and write Word documents.


The Capabilities of PDF versus Word Documents

The characteristics of the respective platforms, as well as their capacity to edit documents, are two of the most major distinctions between PDF and Word. The capacity to alter file documents in PDF is generally more restricted. This is because PDF files were designed to be a text delivery format that retains its formatting across all devices. As a result, it is relatively less common for ordinary users to be familiar with the editing capabilities of Adobe Acrobat.

Word documents, on the other hand, can be generated in Microsoft Word and saved as either a DOC/DOCX or PDF file. If you need to make changes to the document, you may do so in Microsoft Word and then save it as a PDF. As a result, Word documents are generally easier to edit.

One other distinction that gives PDF an edge, is the feature of password protecting a PDF. Unlike a Word document, a PDF has this added security that allows you to have peace of mind when transferring sensitive documents. Most PDF viewers, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, do not allow users to view a PDF file without a password (if enabled). 

Generally speaking, the perceptions above are also true. Word documents, by design, are much easier to edit than a PDF file. While many great PDF editors exist, editing a PDF remains significantly more challenging for an ordinary user relative to a Word file.

How PDFs Work Compared to Word Documents

Another distinction between PDF and Word files is how the content is delivered. Microsoft Word documents are generally less likely to retain their formatting as they are easy to edit. When it comes to PDF files the document will retain its exact formatting, unless it is edited.

The issue of font availability is an excellent way to describe this problem. When sending a Word document, the author may use a font that is not accessible for the recipient. In this case, the device will automatically select a default font when the document is opened and accessed. This is a serious issue, and can affect document readability.

PDFs are a universal file format, and can be viewed by almost any computer, tablet or mobile phone. A PDF file will also have consistent formatting no matter how you view PDF. As there are few file formats that can be opened on almost any device while retaining all their formatting, a PDF remains your best choice when sharing documents.   

In this case, perceptions are mostly correct. PDFs are a vastly superior means of sharing content with a large audience.


Converting PDF or Word Files

Using Microsoft Word, it's pretty simple to convert your document to PDF when you save your file. When you're working with a PDF document on the other hand, you may have experienced more difficulty with converting your PDF to a Word file. The reality is that converting PDF to Word is far from perfect due to technical challenges. You may be under the impression that this conversion just isn't possible, but luckily a PDF to Word converter tool can solve your problems.

Historically, it was difficult to convert early versions of PDF files to other formats. These days, one can use Adobe Acrobat or a range of online PDF editors to convert a PDF file to Word. Users have also been able to select "Save As PDF" to convert their Word documents to PDFs since Word 2007. DocFly helps users both convert files into PDF and PDF to Word. 


Take Control of PDF and Word With DocFly

You can start converting PDF to Word or vice versa for free, or you can even take things to the next level with DocFly Pro. While converting a PDF to a Word document is not easy, DocFly's PDF converter tends to be highly accurate. The premium service offers affordable tools such as an in-browser PDF editor, form creator and filler, and various file format converters.

Author image

Emily Shaw is the founder of DocFly. As a software developer, she built the service from scratch and is responsible for its operations and continued growth. Previously, she studied engineering at the University of Hong Kong and mathematics at the University of Manchester.