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Monday, January 25, 2016

Why PDFs suck

For the longest time, PDFs (Portable Document Format) were the best way to reproduce your art/design in a way that was consistent across all computer platforms. It allowed users to take the work invested in the design for printing posters, magazines, etc. and turn them into a digital format that could be downloaded. However, viewing PDFs on a mobile device just plain sucks. Using tools like Google Apps to replace PDFs has a number of advantages:
  • Documents created in Google Apps are not downloaded but available online.
  • Documents can be viewed on and sized for any device (i.e. desktop/mobile).
  • Changes are immediately visible. 

Viewing
To view a PDF, it must first be downloaded to your device, and then displayed on your screen. Your mobile device treats a PDF like an image — displaying the whole page on the screen.

Here’s an example of a PDF on a mobile device:

A PDF - can you read this?


Because your mobile device displays the whole page, you have to zoom in and then swipe left to read the text that’s off-screen. By the time you get to the second line, you’ve lost interested in trying to read the document.

Now let’s look at a Google Doc:


Notice where the first line ends on each view. The text automatically wraps to the width of the device. Google Docs (part of the Google Apps suite of Docs, Sheets and Slides) are basically fancy web pages; the user only needs to swipe up in order to read the page (just like a web page).

Updating Files

Ever received a PDF in your mail only to have a second one sent a few minutes later with a correction? As soon as you send a PDF, you now have 2 copies — the original and the one on your device. When a change is made to the original, the file on your device becomes out of date.

With Google Apps, updates are instantaneous. When a user needs that information, they just visit that page (i.e. the Google document). And like a web page, it’s easy to update the information without having to send out an email with a second attachment. Users never have to wonder which version on their computer is the most recent. Instead, they visit the link to display the most up to date information. And by taking advantage of Google’s collaboration tools, it’s easy for a number of users to make changes.




Not Just for Text
Google Docs is a great tool for creating online newsletters or assignments, but Google Apps also includes Sheets and Slides. Now your spreadsheets and presentations can be made available online and any changes you make are automatically updated. Just remember to ensure your viewers have View Only access.

So, the next time you go to launch Microsoft Office to start creating a PDF, use Google Apps instead.