pdfs or word docs

Should University Students Submit PDFs or Word Docs?

Have you ever stayed up all night finishing a big essay only to watch your formatting get jumbled when you uploaded it?

Chances are you submitted a Word Doc instead of a PDF. Do you know the difference between them? 

Colleges are now offering more virtual and hybrid classes than ever before. Higher education is changing fast and so is the technology being used. 

Are you about to start taking classes? Keep reading this article to understand the difference between these two file formats and which one is better for college students to be using.

What is the Difference Between PDFs and Word Docs?

Everyone has heard the terms “PDF” and “Word Doc” thrown around on campus or in class, but what do they mean exactly? 

A Word Doc is a document that can be read and stored in the Microsoft Office environment. These files have an extension of DOC or DOCX.

They are both Word Docs. DOC is an older version of the software while the DOCX extension is used on files after Office 2007.

The Portable Document Format or PDF is an Adobe Acrobat Reader file. It opens easily in most operating systems and is compressed to save space. These files are opened like images on your computer. 

Both formats can be used to create documents that include text, pictures, audio, and graphics.

One significant difference between the two is that a saved PDF is locked so recipients can’t make any changes to text or formatting. More people are choosing PDFs for this very reason.

Adobe Acrobat Reader is also a free program, unlike the Microsoft Office Suite. There are paid versions of Adobe Acrobat for people who want more advanced features, but you don’t need to get special software to read a PDF.

There are also alternatives to Adobe Acrobat you can use for free, including Foxit Reader, Slim PDF, Nitro Reader, Expert PDF Reader, and Google Drive. 

PDFs or Word Docs: Choosing the Best Format for the Job

In general, PDFs are best for printing, combining multiple formats into one document, and sending files. This doesn’t mean you should discount Word Docs. They are very useful for word processing and editing. 

The PDF format is very popular right now but it’s important to note that the Adobe program is not a word processor. You’ll still need Word to create a document. 

When deciding on how to submit an assignment, always defer to your professor’s instructions. 

By saving reports, essays, syllabi, or even job resumes as PDFs, students can protect their documents from being inadvertently altered during an upload. PDFs will also open no matter what software the recipient is using. 

In 2018, an estimated 250 billion PDFs were opened. This file format is becoming the standard for many industries.  

PDFs are especially popular in the business and legal communities because of the security they offer and their ability to do digital signatures.

Here are five advantages to using a PDF

  1. Your documents are more secure and they can even be password protected
  2. PDFs are read like images so the file will open on all computers
  3. Convenient for everyone to use, especially those without Microsoft Word 
  4. PDF compression ensures you aren’t emailing or uploading giant attachments
  5. Images, graphics, or videos can be added to a PDF easier than a Word Doc

College students in many classes are required to follow strict style guidelines like MLA, APA, or the Chicago Manual of Style. Part of their grade is calculated on how well they format the document. 

PDFs are helpful for students who want to preserve their documents while sharing them with a professor or classmates. 

What File Formats Professors Like for Submissions

As we mentioned above, always defer to what your professor says and follow their instructions regarding online submissions. Some may ask for Word Docs, others may want a PDF.

We’ve found that more professors are now requiring their students to submit PDFs.

Even before social distancing was in place, professors discovered that PDFs were easier to work with. The formatting was always locked and they rarely encountered corrupt files. 

The recent shift to online teaching means more professors are going to be using PDFs. They will use this format to upload course content into Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Canvas or Blackboard. 

Instructors and students nationwide are currently using Google Docs to send and receive assignments. The advantage of this program is that a student can house their document in the cloud and export as a Word Doc or PDF when needed.

PDF use has also increased at colleges and universities because of its accessibility functions. With a few technical adjustments, documents saved as a PDF can be used by students who are blind or visually impaired. 

Assistive technology tools called screen readers can dictate for students with disabilities. Visuals within the PDF can also be tagged with alt text to describe what information is in the picture or graphic. 

Did you know you can purchase or rent a digital textbook in PDF format rather than paying hundreds of dollars for a hardcopy?

Students are saving money and finding it’s easier to annotate or take notes with a digital textbook.  

Need Help Converting Files?

Remember the points we made in this article when deciding between PDFs or Word Docs.

The good news is converting documents between these two formats is free, quick, and easy.  

At Offdrive we offer many options for you to convert important files into multiple formats. Our most popular is DOCX to PDF, but our service allows you to change files to JPG, PNG, HTML, PPT, CSV, and more. 

Select what conversion you want on our website, upload your document, and we’ll provide you with a secure downloadable file in seconds. It’s that simple! 

Offdrive is a solution for college students who need to convert files on a tight deadline but don’t have the right software. Our blog also provides useful tech tips to help get you through classes.  

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