How to distribute documents
The format for document distribution
It depends what are the purposes of a document. I am a strong supporter
of Ockham's razor : file structures non sunt multiplicanda praeter
necessitatem. I can in general envisage three purposes and usages :
I do not see any advantage in PDF wrt PostScript. One need a special piece of software in order to convert it to PostScript for printing. (I willingly never bothered to install a pdf reader on my own workstation).
- editing of the document. This is a business for a restricted
team of authors, and the choice of format is their own (Latex, Word
or whatever convenient to them
[see elsewhere] ; converters exist into the formats below). These sort of
documents need not to be made public.
- printing of a paper hardcopy. For this ftp retrieval of a PostScript
version is the best. PostScript is a great language !
ps files can be printed with just an lpr commands.
They are not intended to be read on line.
- on-line browsing. For this HTML is the obvious choice.
Converters to HTML do exist, for all cases one reputes suitable not to write natively in it.
Again no extra s/w needed but a plain browser.
I would consider bad practice using ps as a format for reading documents
The way to distribute documents
- Documents may be quite bulky. Therefore they are generally unsuitable
for e-mail distribution, particularly to a large collaboration or to the public.
Some sites impose (rightfully) size limitation on incoming mail
Also the public just wants either to print entire (ps) documents, or to
browse pages of (HTML) documents.
The right way for public distribution is to put such documents online on an
httpd server, and announce via e-mail just the URL.
- For PostScript documents it is better to arrange so that the document is
downloaded more than viewed on line.
- It is otherwise acceptable to put the (ps) document online on an ftp
server for retrieval (and announce via e-mail the instructions for retrieval).
- In case of compression I prefer the old Z compress format (native on my
Unixes) to the gzip gz format, although I have been forced to install the
- For limited exchange of documents to be edited, the author should agree among them
the format. I personally favour Word documents saved in RTF format : this is
likely to give less portability troubles than native Word formats.
(Binary) ftp transfer is still the preferred modality.
- If one really cannot use http or ftp "publication" one may resort to
e-mail distribution. In this case it is strongly recommended to send the
document as MIME attachments
- Never send a document as part of the mail body (even if uuencoded). It
requires extra (manual) actions to extract it in an usable form, while MIME
attachments are extracted with a keystroke. Moreover :
- non ASCII files are not suitable for e-mail transmission in the body
- ps or RTF files may have long lines, which may be wrapped in a destructive
mode by the mailer, rendering the file unusable
- Never send a document in a proprietary or s/w specific format : do not
assume your correspondent has Word, or LaTeX or whatever, unless you checked
- Also do not send HTML mail : it is a nuisance !
- All the above is particularly true for smaller documents like conference
announcements : if pretty formatting is important to you, send an URL to a ps or
HTML version. If you want the person to read the message, send a plain ASCII file.
People receiving unsolicited mail in formats requiring them to take actions to
view or print it, are likely to discard it unread !
- Care after legibility (indenting, blank lines) of plain ASCII files.
Do not send files with long paragraphs terminated by a single carriage return.
Format with lines shorter than 80 characters : this can be easily done for Word
documents Saving as.. text with divided lines or for
HTML documents Saving as.. text.