What Is the Difference Between a PDF & Word Document?

By Kevin Boone

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PDF files and Microsoft Word files are used to display documents in a readable format. The file extensions are proprietary to Adobe and Microsoft, respectively.

PDF Format

A PDF is an Adobe Acrobat Reader file. PDF stands for "portable document format."

Word Format

Microsoft Word documents are stored with the DOC extension. DOC stands for "document file."


PDF files can be opened with Adobe Acrobat Reader and FoxIt PDF Reader. DOC files can be viewed using the open-source OpenOffice.org suite, Microsoft Word, and the Microsoft Office Suite.


Microsoft Word is used to create and edit written documents. Both PDF and Word files can encapsulate various types of data including text, images, audio, and graphics. PDF files display the document exactly as it will look on the printer.


OpenOffice, Foxit Reader, and Adobe Reader are free downloads from the appropriate websites. See "Resources" below for a list.