;   Medical Translation Insight: Why does my Microsoft Word document display differently on different computers? - ForeignExchange Translations

Microsoft Word is so often the application everyone loves to hate that medical translation professionals overlook one basic fact: it is the de-facto standard for word processing and basic formatting work among most medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

That's generally OK but it does create challenges when we work with new clients. Sometimes client contacts will send us files (or receive files from us) and say "hey - why does this look so different?"

The following is a typical question/problem:

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?
As we walk our clients through the causes and solutions, the most common answer involves print drivers.

Because MS Word is a WYSIWYG application, it tries to represent on screen the same result that you would get if you printed the document on the currently selected printer. And changing printer drivers will almost always change the layout at least slightly - and sometimes radically.

Sometimes the issue is with artwork, custom fonts, or inappropriate formatting. But usually it's much simpler, as is the solution that gets proposed by us and on the web (for samples check here and here): Print to PDF.

If you print or save the file into PDF format, installed fonts are irrelevant, formatting is static, and the document is not editable. At ForeignExchange, we generally supply a screen resolution PDF along with the file at final delivery.

Do you have any other tips or tricks on how to deal with MS Word reformatting issues?

[Thanks a lot, Megan, for the tip!]

Acrobat and Word are the tools of our trade, and we have written extensively about them. Here is a sampling of past articles:
Take a look at ForeignExchange's desktop publishing and multimedia services for medical device and pharmaceutical companies and request a detailed proposal for your next multilingual desktop publishing project.


  1. Edwin Skau said...
    Word has a default template called Normal .dot (or Normal.dotm). Every time you launch Word, it opens Normal.dot and this template serves as your default style sheet (think CSS).

    Many folks inadvertently make permanent changes to Normal.dot, and that may have an impact on how Word documents look on their system.

    I used to save a copy of the original Normal.dot (called it Normal.dot1) file and replace the it every time I had a problem. Later, I learned that I only needed to delete it, and that Word would regenerate a new default Normal.dot the next time it was launched.

    The last version of Word that I used extensively was Word 2000. MS has made some changes in how Word works with styles since then, and some of this may have changed.

    [Via LinkedIn]
    David Demyan said...
    A simpler answer: There may be different fonts installed on the different machines. Office 2007 and 2010 tried to address this problem by shipping some good-looking standard fonts and specified their use in Normal.dotx. However, some folks modify the "default" fonts used in their documents to other ones they have on their own system. When the document is sent to someone else, the font being used does not go with the document or template, it stays on the authoring computer. When the document is opened on a device that does not have the specified font installed, Office attempts to substitute a similar one. Results may range from minor to disastrous, especially with highly-stylized fonts.

    [Via LinkedIn]
    Jyoti Mahatekar said...
    Every time when you launch MS word, it opens normal.dot and serves default style sheet. MS Word has given you the rights to change the styles in this file. So normal.dot can be different on each pc. If you are sharing the file which has been created using default template (normal.dot), it will obviously have different look on each pc.

    The solution is to create the document using your own template with styles of your choice.

    [Via LinkedIn]
    Ragnar Branæs said...
    This is one of the main reasons that I simply cannot use Word. As Jyoti correctly says, you need to make your own templates. That is a nightmare (I have tried!). Then, you need to distribute the *.dot file to all members of your organization, teach them how and why to use it, and make sure that they never simply click File->New to start with the "normal.dot" (which of course you cannot delete). And whenever an update is required, you need to distribute the *.dot file to all the C-drives on all the computers to everyone in your organization.

    I am sure that smart IT people have an automated way to do this. We have very smart IT people and automatic distribution. It still doesn't work.

    [Via LinkedIn]
    Gloria McConnell said...
    It is a simple matter to stop Word from updating the styles in a document that uses the normal.dot template and is shared - make sure the "Automatically update document styles" option is not selected.

    In Word 2007, click the Developer tab, then Document Template. Clear the "Automatically update..." option on the Templates tab and click OK.

    If the Developer ribbon is not visible, click the Office button, then Word Options. In the Popular group, select "Show Developer tab in Ribbon," then click OK.

    Sorry, I don't remember earlier versions of Word. Probably under the Tools menu.

    As far as fonts that differ from computer to computer, Word allows you to embed TrueType fonts if they can be embedded (this is up to the font designer/owner). To embed fonts in Word 2007, click the Office button, then Save. In the Save options, select from the Embed Fonts in the File options. Thus, if you use common system fonts (Times, Arial, etc.) and embed TrueType fonts, you should be pretty well covered.

    As far as TrueType fonts that cannot be embedded, Microsoft provides a free tool that will tell you the type of font used: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/TrueTypeProperty21.mspx.

    [Via LinkedIn]

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