Use of PDFs

PDF vs. Word Document vs. Web Page

Web pages are the fastest and most accessible forms of online text presentation.  They are the easiest to edit and will display the most consistently for the users.   They can, however, be a little unpredictable when printed.

Word Documents are useful if you intend the user to edit the document.  

PDF files are best for long term storage of information (ex. meeting minutes) or specifically formatted to print (forms with active fields).  

To get an accessible PDF file...

...Start with an accessible Word Document.  This includes:

  • Avoiding images - especially images with text
  • Minimize the use of shapes and clip art
  • Use the headings in order (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3)

When you convert to PDF, the text and meta information will be included in the PDF file. More information on setting up your Word Document can be found on the MS Office site for Making Your Word Document Accessible.

Is it okay to scan a printed document to PDF?


But I don't have an electronic version anymore and this is only way!

Still no.


Sigh.  If you scan a printed document to a PDF, the default is an image - useless for text readers.  You'll need to run an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program on the file and then proof and edit the document to fix any mistakes before publishing. You'll get slightly better results if you start from a clean printed page and set your scanner to a high resolution.   It's still a terrible idea.