Reading a PDF Newsletter on a Cell Phone

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 5, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021

Craig publishes a small newsletter. He uses Word and converts to PDF to distribute as an attachment to an email. He wonders if there is a means that will make the newsletter easy to read on a cell phone.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this issue. The reason is rooted in what a PDF file is—the digital representation of a printed page. If your PDF is configured for a letter-size printed page, then it cannot fit on the tiny screen of a cell phone all at once. Instead, the user will need to zoom in to read, then zoom back out to navigate, then zoom back in, and so on.

The problem is also compounded by a few other issues:

  • How is the PDF file being created? Word allows you to save a document out to a PDF format, or you can use a specialized program such as Acrobat or any number of third-party programs to do the creation. Each approach will result in a PDF file that varies in internal organization.
  • What phone is being used by the user? There are a plethora of different phones, and each has different screen sizes and different rendering engines.
  • What e-mail program is being used by the user? Different e-mail programs utilize different cell-phone features and, thus, handle attachments (such as PDF files) differently.
  • What app is being used to view the PDF file? Again, differences in this area result in different handling and displaying of the PDF files.

These and many more variables have led some people to not use PDF files for documents destined to be used on cell phones. Instead, you may want to consider distributing your newsletter in Word format, as that will "reflow" to fit the screen when opened on a cell phone. Of course, this decision will depend on whether you feel your readers will all have access to Word on their cell phones.

If you want to rely on PDF, then you can always make the page size in Word smaller than the standard letter size. Make your page size small enough and your margins large enough, and the PDF may look just fine on cell phone. This would take some serious testing on your part, however, to determine what combination of size and margins would be best for your readers.

Another approach is to rely on some Adobe technology to better view PDFs on cell phones. If your users are using the Acrobat app on their cell phones, then they can turn on Liquid Mode, which will make the file easier to handle:

Of course, this approach is dependent on whether all your readers have the Acrobat app instead of relying on a third-party app or any native reader built into an e-mail or browser app on the phone.

You could also, if desired, pick a target format different than Word or PDF. Many people will convert their cell-phone-destined newsletter to an e-book format, such as ePub, Mobi, or similar. It increases your up-front prep time (and learning curve), but it will be much more readable on a smaller screen or on a tablet.

Finally, you might consider placing your newsletter on your own website. As long as the site uses a responsive design, it should adjust gracefully for all sizes of screens. Then, once the newsletter is on your website, your notification e-mail would only need to include a link to the newsletter issue. When the recipient clicks the link, then the newsletter would be opened in their browser app for convenient reading. The downside to this approach is that you would need to format your newsletter using HTML (not PDF) and maintain the server.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5649) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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