Using PDFs

Before adding a PDF to your site, consider when it’s appropriate to use a PDF (as opposed to a standard web page) and when a PDF is an inconvenience to the user. Your decision should be based on common sense, efficiency, and, most importantly, the needs of your users.

Is the content short with few graphical elements? It may make sense to move the content to a web page. Avoid annoying users by asking them to download simple one-page documents. 

Is the content lengthy? It can be time-consuming to convert the content to web pages. Using a PDF may make sense. However, the PDF must be accessible to all users, including users with visual impairments using a screen reader. PDFs can be checked for accessibility in Acrobat.

Does the content have special formatting, graphics, or layouts that won’t render well on the web? Consider using a PDF. The above requirements for accessibility apply.

Links to PDFs

Include the document type (PDF) in parentheses after the link text.

If the name of the PDF (as it was named in the media library) is not appropriate (unclear, too long, etc.), you can use T4's "change attribute" feature:

  1. double-click or right-click the PDF name on the text editor
  2. rename the PDF (it will not change the name in the media library)

Convert Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents to PDF before uploading. PDFs are universally available for viewing; Microsoft documents are not.

PDF vs. Word

PDF is a standard format that is universally available for viewing. Word is a proprietary format that not every user may be able to view. Convert the Word document to a PDF file before uploading it. Note that Word documents should be checked for accessibility before being converted to PDF format.

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