Microsoft Word documents display differently on different systems because of differences between the systems. Getting Microsoft Word documents to display identically typically means processing them into something else.
I have a document which was created in Word XP and is 226 pages. When I send it to a client who is using Word 2003, it looks totally different and is over 330 pages. How can I send the client the document without it changing? Also, they wanted a pdf version, which looks nothing like the word document. How can I get the word document to look like the pdf?
Well, to be honest, you’re trying to do something that Word documents aren’t really intended to do. As counter-intuitive as it sounds Word isn’t really about making the document look exactly the same everywhere.
But your client is on the right track, actually, since that’s what PDF files attempt to do.
In a nutshell: it’s all about the system, and the printer.
The most common reason documents look different on one machine as compared to another is the printer.
When Word displays a document in “Print Layout” form, it actually uses the characteristics of the currently selected printer to determine what the layout should look like. Obvious items such as default margins, paper size, and other charaterstics of printers in general can have a document appear quite differently when viewed, or printed, on one system versus another.
In fact, if you have more than one printer on your system, you can watch this happen. While the document is up in Word, hit File, Print and then select another printer. When you do this the Cancel button will change to Close. Select Close, to close the document without printing it, and the document you’re viewing will be redisplayed, taking the characteristics of the new printer into account. Depending on the differences between your printers, the change can be subtle, or quite dramatic.
Another possible difference is the use of fonts which are not common to all systems. If you create a document using one font, and then view that document on another system where that font is not installed, Word will attempt to substitute something “close” to the font you wanted. Unfortunately, “close” is fairly vague, and can often be startlingly different from the original.
PDF files are one approach at solving this problem. PDF, which stands for “Portable Document Format”, is a document format that attempts to be rendered exactly the same everywhere, no matter what your system or printer characteristics.
Most commonly, PDF creation software acts like a printer – but in a sense it’s a printer that’s the same everywhere. You create your portable document by printer to a PDF virtual printer. The result, a PDF file, can then be viewed anywhere with a PDF reader, and should look, and even print to a real printer, exactly the same as your original PDF.
There are several options to creating PDF files. Adobe Acrobat is the most recognized tool, and actually defines the PDF standard. Another, cheaper alternative is the free and open-source PDFCreator.
So my bottom line recommendation is simply to create a PDF, authoring your document so that the PDF comes out the way you want it to, and then share that with your client. If you need to share editable Word documents, then simply realize that they will not display, or print, exactly the same everywhere.