Information Systems College of Business Administration University of Missouri - St. Louis

 Should I convert?

| HTML | PDF Files | Word/Excel/Powerpoint Vs. PDF | Creating HTML Files |
| "How To" Links | Resources

HTML (.htm or .html)

This is the ideal format for documents on the web because it does not require any additional software or plug-in. If you have a document that you want people to read on the web, this is your best choice. Also, if you want to have hyperlinks in your document, this format has proven to be much less of a hassle than putting hyperlinks in a Word document. 

But electronic publication is different from hard copy publication. If you have a Web page written in HTML that looks perfect on your computer, the same page may look very different on others' computer. For example, fonts can be difficult to control with HTML files. If the end-user does not have the same font you have or the end-user's browser settings have different font size as default, your web page will appear very different on their computers. 

More than that, as a teacher trying to maintain your website, using links to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files may be the easiest alternative.  This involves creating a link that will open your file when a student clicks on it.  Using your documents in this way allows for easy upkeep because all you have to do is replace the file in your UNIX account, rather than update any HTML pages.

On the other hand, most PowerPoint presentations are too large for a regular user to download. Saving As HTML breaks the presentation up into small parts and allows any user to view it without problems. Many users do not have PowerPoint 97 and would not be able to open the document unless they had the PowerPoint reader (a plug-in).

PDF (.pdf)

Another alternative is to use PDF (Portable Document File) format.  This format incorporates more information about the creator's display environment (font, font size, spacing, special formatting information) into the file itself. This makes PDF files larger than HTML files, but PDF files look very consistent across different computers and across platforms (Windows or Mac or UNIX). Unlike image files, PDF files are all scalable, meaning that you can enlarge (or reduce) the files and the resolution will be automatically adjusted for the best possible display.

A PDF file is a picture of your document. It cannot be edited once it is created. It requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader to view. This is usually used to distribute documents on the web that have a great deal of formatting and do not convert well to HTML. This format is sometimes preferred over leaving a document as a Word document because it is more likely that a user has Acrobat Reader (since it is widely distributed and free) than it is that they have the newest version of Microsoft Word or the Word Viewer. This format is also used for documents that have never been electronic. You can scan a paper document and save it directly as a PDF document.

Common Problems Word, Excel and  Powerpoint Files

Adobe PDF Solutions

Recipients can't open files because they don't have the applications used to create the documents.

Anyone, anywhere can open a PDF file. All you need is free Acrobat Reader software.

Formatting, fonts, and graphics are lost because of platform, software, and version incompatibilities.

PDF files always display exactly as created, regardless of fonts, software, and operating systems.

Documents don't print correctly because of software or printer limitations.

PDF files will print correctly on any printing device.

Content in existing documents can't be repurposed for other uses because of formatting problems. 

Content in PDF documents can be saved in Rich Text Format and reused in other applications. 

Documents with complex formatting are not accessible to visually impaired readers. 

Tagged PDF files contain information on content and structure, which make them accessible with the help of screen readers.

Creating HTML Files

When creating webpages, you must decide whether to use a tool or to write the page in html using a text editor.  There are both advantages and disadvantages to using tools and text editors for developing HTML.

Using a tool (Netscape Composer, FrontPage, Dreamweaver) allows you to see the page as it is created.  It is easy to set specific colors and fonts and to insert and size objects.  With a tool, the developer does not need to know HTML.  However, using tools can create many problems.  Fonts and sizes are not always consistent.  Properties set on the page may not always carry over to the internet the way you see them on that page.  Also, some tools do not allow forms to be created.  Despite these problems, using a tool might be the easiest method for an HTML novice to create HTML files because it is visual and there is no need for experience in HTML.

You may also choose to develop your HTML with a text editor (Notepad).  There are several advantages to using a text editor.  Setting font color, size, and weight, along with table and background specifications for the entire site is possible using style sheets.  It is also easier to incorporate java script into the HTML when using a text editor.  The drawbacks to using HTML are that is can be hard to read, there is more room to make mistakes, and the developer cannot see the page as they are coding the HTML.

"How to" Links

Helpful Resources

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