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PDF or MS Office for quotes

 10:56 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just having a discussion about the best way of sending quotes, invoices etc.
My wife, who's in the publishing industry keeps telling me PDF is the way to go.
I keep telling her everybody expects MS office docs, word and excel.

So what gives: would you
a) immediately destroy any quote sent to you as PDF
b) be delighted and sign the deal immediately?



 11:23 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

Personally I always transmit using PDF rather than an MS office component ....

MS office is a premium priced MS package.
Documents created in later versions of MS Office components will not always display properly if openned in earler versions. Unless password protected contents can be easily tampered with as can display and layout.

Acrobat or rather pdf stands for "Portable Document Format" the reader is free and therfore it is more compatible to multiuser platforms.

Contents are also I think less easy to tamper with.


 11:32 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

We prefer to send quotes in PDF too. We use Quark templates for a more professional presentation. We always verify with prospect first. When they ask for Word, that is what they get.

Invoices are made with FileMaker Pro, printed on paper and sent via snail mail.


 9:20 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well I agree with MS Word being annoying in some respects. The lack of compatibility between versions being the main point.

But then I tend to think it's like using Outlook: Everybody knows it's a product with severe security flaws, but still every single business mail I get is an Outlook mail.

PDF: Does really everybody have a reader? I would hate to force people to download software.


 3:46 pm on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

If I receive a document in PDF, I'm generally OK with it. They only bother me when someone decides that they'd rather use PDF than HTML for their web page.

If I receive a document in Office format, I'm generaly irked. It's easier for me to deal with than it used to be, since OpenOffice has gotten better and AbiWord handles MS Word smoothly now, but I don't like it.

I'd be careful not to use the latest and greatest features from the newest version of Acrobat, but it's been quite some time now since I last sat down at a machine that couldn't open a PDF at all. The machine I'm using right now has three different programs that can view PDFs, without even having Acrobat Reader installed.


 4:05 pm on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't do either. PDF requires a download (a pretty big one if you're on dial-up). Word costs money and even if people have that, Excel and other elements of it may not be installed.

For true (er, the closest you're going to be able to come to) cross platform/OS compatibility, RTF is the way to go. Windows comes with Wordpad that will read the RTF and Mac has a comparable editor (I forget the name) that can read the RTF format.



 4:09 pm on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

If you have a reseller/dealer and you want the end-user to have exactly your information with your branding and with your end-user prices, pdf works best.

Andrew Thomas

 4:11 pm on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I use a PDF but also physically post it to the clients, I think PDF provides the best design options, and can make a quote look quite professional.

I think first impressions count, and i just think word and other text formats dont match a document produced in quark and saved as PDF.

But i also know its in the post so if the customer cannot open the document, they will have a hard copy within the next few days anyway.

This also gives me a chance to add a bit more marketing gumph too :)


 4:21 pm on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

We use PDF too.

I don't think the format of the quote being sent will make or break your business, but it will certainly lend a sense of professionalism.

We send an email, with the PDF attached, and a link to Acrobats download site. We also mention in the email that if they require the quote in a different format, we'll gladly send a word or excel document right away.

I think PDF provides the best design options, and can make a quote look quite professional.


- Chad


 4:39 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I also use PDF. I've never had a problem with someone not having the reader or unable to open it. Personally I find it looks far more professional than a word doc and as mentioned already it can't be tampered with.

I also occasionally send a quote by straight email. These are usually for smaller jobs or existing clients that just want a quick price to do something.


 4:55 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Pure text always to start with. I generally ask the recipient before hand what they prefer. I assume it is Text first, doc second, and PDF for third.

I don't care for doc or pdf myself. When I receive a quote from someone in either, I'll ask for text. That makes it much easier to track in email programs than being required to convert or do something with the doc.

With a doc file, it is read it once and toss it if I don't like it. If it's text, it may set around visible in the inbox for a few weeks while I mull it over.

There are also a growing number of Linux users out there, and not all are going to be able to deal with pdfs or doc files without jumping through some hoops. If you deal with system people at all, there is no other format than Text that should be used without ANY encoding - including quoted printable. I've had my head bitten off for trying to send a sysadmin a doc file before - I know it is why I didn't get the bid.


 5:24 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm leaning towards printer friendly html for these purposes. The obvious benefit is that everybody I work with is able to view html. Also, if you post it and give the clients a link to the page then you can track access to it in your logs.

I'd be interested in hearing drawbacks to using html.


 7:02 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

>> gmoney if you post it and give the clients a link to the page then you can track access to it in your logs. <<

If the client wants some demo of one kind or another I agree, put up a page or two access restricted and email them a link and password.

>> I'd be interested in hearing drawbacks to using html. <<

People (like me) dont like getting html emails is one reason. The other if you do it online, is the extra hassle of putting up and managing lots of new passwords for each quote etc .. some of which clients will not be able to read. Plus there is that fact that unless they are able to change their password immediately on logging on, the password was sent by normal email and as such your quotation is now not as completely private as you thought it might be .. mind you the same could be said for any emailed quote in text pdf or doc.

Oh BTW a serious reason why not to send quotes or any other comms as Doc files.

Various versions of Word (perhaps other office components too) apparently have a bug in which they can include random text from other items on your hard disk. There are some articles on the net - plus open an empty white sheet of ms word and save it, see how large it is .. what is all that .. are you sure .. open it in code and look at all that stuff .. why is a blank sheet of paper so big file size .. no idea as to the truth of the bug text inclusion but that could look silly if a client learnt of another this way or perhaps if your bank details or private emails etc etc .. Anyone know definitive status of this bug?

BTW I agree with previous posters mentioning do what the client wants. Its not hard to ask what format they prefer and go with that.


 7:40 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I use only "[plain]Text":
US-ASCII, or ISO-8859-1 for Latin charset.
If nice graph-image-photo-layout etc. are needed, I write by hand some html.

But I know that pdf are better, from "customer's" POV.



 8:20 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just having this exact discussion - Ts and Cs are going to be converted to PDF to prevent them being changed by customer. If we send a doc and they then change it, sign it and send it back (and we don't notice) by the rules of offer and acceptance we would be bound to accept their revised terms (I think!), which we don't want.


 12:57 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good point about a sneaky doc change, Robber. I suppose one thing you could do is make the doc read-only using a password. I think for legal stuff, contracts and the like, doc files are used more often than other formats.


 1:10 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Mark_A - that Word bug works as follows. Person A creates a document with particular characteristics, and sends it to person B. Depending on their version of Word, person B may have to print the document to trigger inclusion of some other file from their HD or available network drives, or they may just have to open it and make some changes. Person B then sends the document back to person A, who can now read the stolen information.

There are details. I don't know them because I don't, can't, and don't want to use Word, but you can find out more than you ever wanted to know about them by looking up "Woody's Office Watch" (at woodyswatch.com) and going through the archives.


 1:16 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Something that no one has mentioned yet, but is truly worthy of a mention (imho):-

Microsoft Office docs (such as Excel and Word) can have macros in them, the apps themselves have been known to have bugs that can leave your system exploitable, and there are known viruses that take advantage of all of the above.

Adobe PDF files simply don't suffer from the same issues (well, so far, anyway).

When I used Microsoft Office, I would always think twice about opening a .doc or .xls (now I use Open Office so it isn't really an issue), but I've never had the same level of paranoia when dealing with PDFs.

Also, the purist in me likes the fact that the PDF file format is 'open' in nature, well documented and has good support from other tools (and platforms), whereas the Microsoft Office file formats are definitely 'closed'.

Nowadays, all of the docs I send out are in PDF (except when I put together HTML, and simply send a link).


 3:47 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I use HTML!

A year or two back when i developed the quote deployment system for our company, I debated what format I would use. i did not want an office product.. I did not want PDF because you will always ALWAYS get some feeb who cannot figure out a PDF document. And if they do not have it installed on their machine, and they have to go download, they are going to whine.

HTML is nice and clean, it can look good, it is easily emailed, it can print nice, and if they found your site through the web, then they can open up the html.

Just my suggestion.


 4:38 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Another way that could save you trouble, in terms of ensuring correct versions of pdf or msword etc is to put the proposal in either a password protected web page or name the page something obscure known only to you and the client.

Provide a link to it in an email to your client eg

Dear Client

blah blah blah you can view the proposal at

best regards

Mr pleaseusemyservices

and hey presto, guaranteed readability. :)


 4:47 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Most of the people I deal with are computer illerate. I've had to learn the hard way - while I would prefer to send a format they can't edit (such as pdf) the hassel involved it attempting to help them utilize it (view, print, sign) is rarely worth the time. I even went to far as to make a *how to* page - really easy, ya'd think - and it failed. Now, I ask what they prefer - if they don't understand the question (which happens tooo often) they get text email which they have to print, sign and fax back. Then I make sure I check the details carefully - if they changed anything without my consent it's rejected. Yes, I had it happen once. We discussed the change, I edited the original and resent - all was good after that. But when it comes to things like T&C, etc - snail mail and fax & mail back - period.


 6:13 am on Oct 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

I can see the advantages of PDF, as long as they're intended to be printed before reading. (PDF documents can be a nuisance to read onscreen.)

However, every client I've ever dealt with has demanded Word, period. But then, most of my work has been for publishers and advertising agencies, where the biggest question isn't "Word, PDF, or something else?" but "Which word--Windows or Mac?"


 6:38 am on Oct 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think the jest of the thread is you are the one that needs that flexibility and variety is better (and preempted) so that you don't run into the situation "I did receive your quote but couldn't open it, was in a rush, and then forgot to get back..."

Fax and even snail mail needs considerations as well.

Probably more market dependent and even client specific than we all realize:

Mom & Pop business; more likely dialup or not at all,

an Inc; high-speed,

ad agencies would likely prefer; a PDF,

environmentalists; anything non-paper but small,

an Internet pure play; web based

a web designer; Flash with lots of moving parts! :)

government .. who the heck knows?

Make it a point to ask first rather than be embarrassed.

Robert Charlton

 7:59 am on Nov 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

I use PDF for my promotional materials like a bio and introduction to SEO, but not for anything else.

I don't like sending or receiving Word documents, but I do send large ad agencies and large companies MS Word... They're image conscious and appearances count.

Otherwise, I send only plain text... and I prefer working in plain text throughout the project.

Several tricky thing about plain text documents...
- I can't bold or underline, so I find myself separating sections with all caps headings and the like, and being very conscious of line spacing to distinguish one section from another.
- I'm never sure what font they're going to use, and I know that text columns may not line up if they print in variable width face.

If I do send Word documents, I use the fonts that I'd use on a website... nothing fancy that might get changed if they don't have the font installed. I should probably get around to creating a gif of my letterhead so I can embed it without worrying about fonts.

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