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When not to use PDFs

  • If the information is intended to be read online
  • If another content type could be used instead, i.e. a normal HTML web-page

When to use PDFs

  • When a document needs to be downloaded, read offline or printed
  • If a document is more than 5 pages long.  But consider whether it could be broken down into smaller sections and presented as HTML
  • When attaching a document to an email
  • As an additional alternative to online content - e.g. this set of tutorials could also be provided as a single PDF document
  • When formatting needs to  be preserved - e.g.  a PowerPoint presentation
  • Instead of Microsoft Office documents. But HTML is better most of the time
  • See the definitive list of when to use PDFs by Joe Clark

What else to include with your PDF document

  • An online HTML version or summary of the document
  • A link to download Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • A PDF icon to indicate that it is a PDF document
  • (see an example on the BBC website)

See also

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1 Comment

  1. Unknown User (ma1twn)

    This should be removed. The information is / should be in the web standards.