The Trouble with Microsoft Word Documents

If you have ever submitted a Word Document to your printer, you are familiar with the “sigh” you typically get from your CSR. It isn’t personal, they’re just dreading taking your file back into production.

Microsoft Word documents are what we call “machine dependant”. That means if you take your Word document to another computer it has a really good chance of looking completely different. Fonts can change, text can reflow, etc. and Word will never tell you something is wrong, if you don’t see the difference you don’t know.

So when we get your file and we have no printout, we don’t know if fonts have changed or type has reflowed. We create a PDF and when you see the proof, it is wrong. Some people become very frustrated with this, typically the sales staff who don’t seem to understand no matter how many times production explains it to them. 🙂

This same thing can happen if you open the file in a different version of Word. Again, you won’t get a warning. Word just reformats things using the settings from the new version.

It sounds like supplying a printout is the solution. Well actually, no. Having a printout just lets us know when things have gone wrong. Word usually won’t tell us what the original font was, it will tell us what it substituted (sometimes).

The best option when submitting a Word document is to PDF the file. The newer versions of Word give you this option right in your toolbar. If you PDF the file, it locks in the fonts and text so what you see on your screen will be very close to what you get on your proof. We say very close, because Word works in RGB and that means we will most likely have to convert the file to CMYK to print. That will cause a color shift, so be ready for that.

If you ask a production team the best advice for submitting Word documents, they will tell you to get InDesign or Quark. Oh, and by the way, Excel is not a better option, so don’t convert your Word Document to Excel and send it in, please.

We aren’t just picking on Microsoft, this applies to all word processing programs like WordPerfect, Pages, OpenOffice, etc. They just weren’t designed to print anywhere other than the office Laser printer or an inkjet. They do very well there, they just don’t work well for printers.

If you have questions about creating PDFs, submitting files or would like a professional to help you, please contact your Printing Partners salesperson. Our production team will thank you later.

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