Word Documents on the Web

Greetings all

The organisation I work for needs to make some Word documents available for users to download from our website - so that they can type into them, print off the finished product and mail them back to us.

However, we have been receiving many complaints that when the documents are downloaded, the fonts are wrong, or the tables go screwy or the margins are set too tight for them to print on their ancient deskjet, etc etc

Anyway, I was wondering if there are any standards set for making Word documents accessable to as wide an audience as possible? Or if anyone could suggest another clever solution to the problem??


The fonts are not embedded in Word documents, so the best way to prevent font problems is to stick with the font that is on all computers: Times Roman. That may also be the cause of the table problems.

As far as the margins are concerned, you need to set margins large enough to accomodate all printers. I don’t know the exact figures, but I’d give at least 3/4 inch on all sides (and an inch at the top) to cover things.

For other options, I think the latest version of Adobe Acrobat lets you create documents with fill-in fields.

Yeah, convert them to html. :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously, what’s your target audience? Is it just the general public, or will they all be using certain software?

The general public isn’t guarenteed to be able to even open a Word document. I’ve got something like 4 computers with 3 different OSs, and I’ve still got to jump through hoops to open view a basic Word document - if it’s got embedded pics or something, forget it.

The requirement to type stuff is kind of tricky. I haven’t used it myself, but I understand there exists a typeable pdf format. This might be useable by a much larger percentage of people.

I don’t have a good solution for using Word docs this way. The use of external fonts and other things in the design of Word makes it unsuitable. There may be ways to embed your fonts, but you’ll need someone else to help you there.

As an alternative solution, you might consider PDF files. PDFs embed font and layout information because they are more of a print medium than a Word is. You can embed text boxes in PDF files that allow users to fill out your PDF files just like they would fill out a website form. They can type in the boxes and then print the modified document. They would need a PDF writer to be able to save the modified files, but anyone with just a PDF reader would be able to fill in the text boxes and print the results.

Another alternative would be a web form. You could put an HTML form on a website which displayed the document. The form processor could then pretty-print the results so they could print from the browser and/or send the data directly to you.

Thanks for the quick responses!!

Embedding fonts is a solution that we’re busy looking at - apparantly it can be done in Word. And we are switching from CG Omega (the “house style” font which no-one in the real world has) to something more generic like Arial. The margins are probably the biggest problem - would RealityChuck’s suggestion of 3/4 inch and an inch at the top be enough to satisfy most printers? Any way for me to find out the printing dimensions of common home printers?

The documents in question are sample case-book sheets (over 100 pages) for students to download, fill out over a period of months/years and then submit with their portfolios at exam time. For this reason HTML and PDF forms have both been considered and rejected - PDF forms need ot be filled in and printed in one sitting (unless you have the full version of Acrobat as micco says), while HTML forms would require them to fill in the form online (ie. also at one sitting but with the telephone costs mounting).

Tell me more, perhaps this is a solution, if we could get the HTML to their PC?


I’m sure you’re aware, but just as a general comment, please check your distribution rights on the font before embedding it in a document. If this is a custom font, it’s likely you paid a license fee to use it and may not have the right to distribute (which embedding in a document would entail). Of course, if you’re switching to Arial, you need not worry.

There are a number of freeware PDF print-driver solutions that allow you to create new PDF without owning Acrobat. I don’t know whether they’d be suitable for this or not, but you don’t necessarily need a full copy of Acrobat.

This solution would seem to be unsuitable since you want them to fill the report out over time. I was envisioning an HTML form which would take one-time inputs and then display them for printing. However, if you add a simple database back end to store the inputs between sessions, users could log into a page, see the results they’d already entered, and then add/edit the content. This would involve a little more backend development for you because you’d need a system to log the user in and read/write their data to a database, but that’s not very exotic. The benefit of this solution is that it gives you control of the data at ever step in the process, so you don’t have to worry about users who lose their file or have trouble with the file exchange.

You can, and it’s very easy. Open your document. Click on the Tools menu, then Options, then go to the Save tab. Click the box labeled “Embed True Type fonts”, and make sure that “Embed characters in use only” is not checked. You’re done.

Cool - thanks Jake.

micco - some sort of login/database solution is an option that we are looking at, but it is likely to be on a fairly distant horizon for the time being…