Can you send MS Word files to commercial printers?

I do get asked this question periodically. The simple answer, I’m afraid, is no.

It’s certainly possible to output a PDF (or PostScript file) from MS Word, but it presents several technical and aesthetic problems:

  1. MS Word just doesn’t handle fonts very well, compared to a proper DTP package, and lacks the fine-tuning controls. Your finished product is always gong to look like an office document, albeit on nicer paper
  2. The quality of images imported into MS Word gets degraded quite significantly. You’d probably be disappointed by what they’d look like on the finished product
  3. Word struggles with image formats such as TIFF and EPS
  4. The colour model of MS Word is RGB, whereas a printer needs the job in CMYK. There’s also no support for Pantone colours.

So, to summarise, unless you’re doing a simple black and white text-based project, don’t touch it with a bargepole. In fact, this blog post explains it much better than me.

I think the only possible exception would be an entirely text-based publication in black type (such as a novel), if you were self-publishing a book, for example. However, if you’ve set up your Word file properly, using Styles and Formatting, it wouldn’t be a big job for a designer to typeset it and it would look much nicer. And you’d need them to do your book cover anyway.

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