Whether you are a student, freelancer, or you work for a company, chances are you’re using documents daily. Managing, editing, and sharing documents is one of the most basic computer tasks, and now that everyone is trying to reduce reliance on paper, you won’t stop working with digital documents any time soon. However, not all file formats are the same. The two top choices, PDF and .doc, are quite different, and choosing one over the other can be more challenging than it seems.

Even though it can sometimes be tempting to use one at random, the truth is that PDF and .doc shine in different aspects and, to maximize their best features, you need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. If you’re not sure which one to use for your next task, this guide will help you out.

When to use PDF

According to Phil Ydens, Adobe’s VP Engineer for Document Cloud, there may over 2.5 trillion PDF files in the world, and that number is growing every day. Why do so many people use PDF? Because it’s universally accepted and it’s used everywhere from schools to Government

Agencies, it’s versatile, and it has browser support.

PDF works in many situations, both for professional and personal use. Here are just a few examples:

  • When you want to print something, such as a research paper, converting it to PDF is recommended because the file will look exactly the same as it does on your computer, from the fonts to the spacing and alignment. In fact, most print shops only accept PDF to avoid misunderstandings.
  • PDF is the go-to format for sending business documents. Unlike docs, which can easily be edited (and thus altered), PDFs can be secured. This way, you have the peace of mind that no one will change the details of a contract or delete a paragraph.
  • PDF is easy to use when you have a lot of documents to deal with. You can easily merge files from several sources using tools like this one here, import images, and even add elements from doc documents into the same PDF file. For example, if you’re working on extensive paper and you’re using data from multiple people, gathering it all in PDF is much easier than in Microsoft Word.
  • PDF is the top format for archiving documents. In fact, one of its earliest uses was within the IRS, which was happy to switch to a new format, as the old one made it difficult to access files, and searching in the was basically impossible. Because PDF files are compact, archiving them is really easy. Plus, PDFs are searchable so that you can retrieve info from them within seconds.
  • Use PDF for file exchange. First of all, they’re compact, so you can attach them in emails or share them via tools such as Dropbox and OneDrive. Secondly, PDFs retain their original information no matter what device they are viewed on. So, if you used a special font or layout, the recipient will see it exactly as you intended, no matter if they open it on mobile or in their desktop browser.
  • PDF works well for creating online content. Because PDFs can resemble Web pages, you can create newsletters, user guides, and product catalogs in this format. Then, you can share them via your favorite channels.


  • Accepted everywhere
  • Easily shareable
  • Easy to archive
  • Easy to print
  • Files maintain their original properties
  • Searchable
  • Compatible with all devices
  • Secure


  • You cannot retrieve images from PDF files
  • If you want to edit PDF files, you have to use third-party software

When to use doc

Although many people assume that Microsoft Word is the only way to create .doc documents, they can actually be created in many other programs, such as LibreOffice and Apple Pages, although the features aren’t nearly as extensive.

PDF vs Doc Which One Should You Use GP 2

Just about every person who has used a computer has worked with a doc file and knows that this format, though incredibly useful, has its whims. So, where does it work best?

  • If you want to reuse the images in a document, use .doc instead of a PDF. In PDF files, the images are embedded within the document; you can’t extract them. In doc files, you can simply right-click and ‘Save Image As.’
  • When it comes to word processing, the doc format is simply unbeatable. Whether you want to write a resume, memo, novel, or anything in between, you have tons of great features that allow you to customize your work. You can insert graphics and diagrams, add comments, compare multiple versions of the same files, and play around with creative layouts. Plus, you have grammar and spelling features that are only topped by premium editing tools like Grammarly.
  • Doc also has more editing options than PDF. In PDF, editing can feel slightly limiting because you can only remove or replace chunks of text. In .doc, you can track changes, change the font style and the layout, playing with the document as you see fit.


  • Unbeatable word processing features
  • Doc files are easy to edit
  • You can pull up images from doc files
  • Microsoft Word, the most popular software for using doc files, has macros that can automate repetitive tasks.


  • Larger doc files have a larger file size, which makes them hard to share
  • Placing images in doc files is notoriously buggy
  • Doc files can have compatibility issues and might not be viewed as intended by the recipient
  • Doc files aren’t as secure as PDFs
  • Doc files are hard to view by non-Office users and on mobile devices
  • The saving system is inconsistent.

Final word

So, which one is better, PDF or Word? As you can see, there is no universally applicable answer because it all depends on what features you need. For example, if you’re interested in word processing features, then doc is the clear winner, but if you want to send a business contract, you should use PDF. When in doubt, ask the receiving party what formats are accepted.

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