What kind of document format should I use?

Decision Tree

Determining the best and most accessible document format for a specific situation can take some thought. Below are some of the most frequent considerations to help you decide on a preferable format:

  1. Does your document need to be printed?
    • Yes: 
  • Provide all of the pertinent information in an accessible version such as a web page, Word Document, Google Doc, spreadsheet, etc.
  • And provide a downloadable, print-ready PDF. 
  • Note: Many students are not printing documents, rather there is an increased use of mobile devices so it is imperative that documents are mobile friendly.
  1. Will the document be updated periodically?
    • Yes: 
    • Add your content on a web page instead of in a document.
    • See FAQ for the benefits of having a web page instead of a PDF for documents updated periodically.
  2. Is it primarily text and created as a text document (Word, Google)?
    • Yes — and sharing restrictions are not a concern: maintain the original source document and share in that format.
    • Yes — and sharing restrictions are a minor concern: Share source text document with sharing options restricted.
    • Yes — sharing restrictions are a primary concern: Check with ITS to learn what tools and best security practices you should follow. 
  3. Was it created as a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation?
    • If Yes, then share in an accessible version of this original format.
    • Note: Sharing documents via Google Slides or Office 365 can allow you to keep those shared files up to date without resending to your audience.
    • Tip: Provide a shortened link with a meaningful file name to make your shared document easier to access.
  4. Could your document be a webpage?
    • If Yes, then utilize a webpage with real text to share your information. If no, use the tools suggested in Resources for Accessible Content to ensure accessibility.
    • Refrain from posting images of documents. Instead: include real text on the website.