How to Create and Exchange Digital Documents
How to Create and Exchange Digital Documents
I'm a big believer in "eating my own dog food". In other
words, if I'm going to recommend something to you, it's
usually because I do it myself. This article is all about
digitizing as many of your paper documents as you can.
There are several ways to digitize your documents. Suppose
you need to share a document, perhaps a proposal, with a
client. Traditionally, we would create and print the
document, then mail it or fax it to the client. A far
better alternative is to create the document as an
electronic file, then simply send it via email. You can
creat the document as a Microsoft Word (or other word
processor) document or you can create a PDF document. In
general, I recommend using PDF documents. There are times,
however, when using Microsoft Word is the best choice.
Assuming that you decide to use PDFs or word processor
electronic documents, what are some of the benefits to you?
Security--Electronic forms can be secured with passwords or
certificates, thus preventing unauthorized third parties
from viewing their contents. Sure, there are tools
available on the Internet that can crack some forms of
document security, but remember that paper documents can
also be stolen, photocopied, and read by unauthorized
Format consistency--Although this doesn't apply to all
electronic documents, PDF documents maintain the
consistency of their format across all platforms. In other
words, people using a Macintosh will see exactly the same
document as those using a PC. The formatting is consistent
from one platform to another. The formatting of word
processor documents, however, can change as they move from
one computer to another.
Searchability--Electronic documents are easily searchable.
Just use the key combination of Control+F and enter a word
or a phrase and the computer will search for it within the
document. Have you ever been reading a book or magazine
article that mentions a name that was referred to earlier?
You scan the pages looking for that name or phrase, but
can't find it. That problem simply doesn't exist in
electronic documents. (It's especially true in technical
fields with lots of acronyms.)
Portability and conserving space--As a technologist, I used
to have shelves and shelves of technical books and
documents (most of which did a great job of gathering
dust!). Today, most of my technical documentation is stored
in PDF documents on my laptop computer. They're easily
searchable, very portable, and don't gather any dust. I
usually have my laptop with me, so no matter where I am, I
have an entire library of documentation with me. I've even
started reading electronic novels. I carry a Palm Treo
700p. The E-Reader software is free for it and I can
download free books from many sources including the
Gutenberg Project (www.gutenberg.org), which is a source of
classics. (I just finished "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".)
If I want something current, I can buy e-books for very
reasonable prices from many sources on the Internet. Since
I always have my phone with me, I always have a book to
read while I'm waiting for whatever (delayed flights, late
clients, etc.). By the way, the e-reader software makes it
realistic to read books on a small screen. Hard to believe,
I know, but it really does work very well.
Speed and sendability--I just signed a contract with a
client to present some video training. They emailed me the
agreement, we worked out some of the terms, and I signed it
electronically (the subject of electronic signatures is a
whole article in itself) and emailed it. They received it
within seconds of me signing it, even though their offices
are over a thousand miles from mine. I am working on
presenting a seminar for a client's customers on how to go
digital (without going postal). He needed a brochure
describing the seminar and my picture for publicity. He
called me with the request and within seconds, he had what
he needed because I was able to email the files to him.
Before the digital age, I would have had to print the
documents and send them to him via postal mail or an
express service. This is what Bill Gates was talking about
when he referred to "business at the speed of thought"
(another book I have on my Treo, by the way).
Forms--This is a feature I've been using for years. In
Microsoft Word (and presumably other word processors), you
can create a document which is locked except for form
fields. In other words, I create a questionnaire in which
you can't change any of the text that I wrote, but you can
fill in certain fields, save the document, and return it to
me with your responses. We use it in our training business
when preparing for an onsite presentation. We send an
electronic questionnaire to our client asking about things
like the exact seminar location, credentials needed for
entry, goals of the training, names of attendees, etc. Our
clients simply tab between fields on the form and are able
to complete it in a matter of just a few minutes and email
it back to us. To learn how to do this, search on "creating
forms" in Microsoft Word.
How can you create and use digital documents? The easiest
way is with a word processor such as Microsoft Word. Just
save it and send it. There are, however, different formats
for saving documents in Word. For the greatest
compatibility, in Word 2007 choose "Save As" and save it as
a Word 97-2003 document. If you're using Word 2003 or
earlier, you can just save it as usual and send it. What if
you want to create a PDF (Portable Document Format)? You
can buy Adobe Acrobat which is a great program, but pricey.
You can also buy less expensive versions of PDF creator
software from various vendors. For Microsoft Office 2007
users, you can download a free plugin that allows you to
save documents as PDFs. Go to www.microsoft.com/downloads
and search on "PDF plugin". Remember, saving your document
as a Microsoft Word document is the easiest way to do it,
but PDFs preserve formatting and are readable on nearly any
How do you read PDFs? Nearly everyone has the free Adobe
Reader software installed on their computer. If you don't,
it's a free download from www.acrobat.com. Just look for
the link to download Adobe Reader.
For a list of PDF creation software, you can either Google
on "pdf software" or visit
But, it's not just about digitizing paper documents. The
benefits of going digital apply the music and videos, too.
As I've been writing this post, I've been finishing the
process of ripping my CD collection (that means converting
the CDs to digital files). More on that in a future article.
About the Author:
President and chief technologist at Seattle,
Washington-based IT training firm soundtraining.net, Don is
a speaker, writer, and veteran IT guy with over 35 years
experience in technology for the workplace. Today, he
delivers keynote speeches, workshops, and seminars to
business people on how to go digital without going postal.
Call him at 206.988.5858. He's online at
www.doncrawley.com and blogs at
This article is distributed on behalf of the author by SubmitYOURArticle.com
SubmitYOURArticle.com is a trading name of Takanomi Limited.
Takanomi Limited is a limited company registered in England and Wales.
Registered number: 5629683. Registered office: 31 St Saviourgate, York YO1 8NQ.
Full contact details are at takanomi.com