Portable Document Format (PDF) Versus Open Document Text (ODT)

Ancestral Author Plus can create PDF genealogy documents as well as Open Document Text (ODT). What is the difference, and why use one format vs. another?

PDF Format

PDFPortable Document Format is the defacto standard for sharing documents on the internet. Almost every computer and smart phone has software capable of viewing PDF files; if your computer does not, then it is readily available for free from Adobe here.

A PDF file can be shared with family members, or anybody else, simply by sending it as an attachment to an email, or by putting it online at a social networking site, or any other website. The recipient will be able to view the document with a click of their mouse, or a tap of their finger on their smartphone; and they can print it just as easily.

Ancestral Author Plus creates PDF files that have a professional appearance, with hyperlinked tables of contents, names, and indexes, that allow you to click on a name and immediately jump to the page on which that person appears. When consulting the name index for a particular person – once found, you can click on the index entry and jump directly to the page for that person. The hyperlinks make it easy to navigate the document, and the relationships between people in the genealogy report. PDF is the ideal format for viewing genealogy documents on a computer.

There is, arguably, one downside to Portable Document Format – PDF documents are not easily editable. In some sense, this an upside too – especially if you don’t want recipients to change the document. But if you want to make changes to the PDF document yourself, perhaps adjust some spacing, correct a typo, or add a new chapter, you will have to buy additional software to do so. Not impossible, but not easy.

This is where Output Document Text format shines.

ODT Format

Output Document Text format is a standard word processing file format. There are multiple free software programs that can be used to read, edit, print, and otherwise manipulate ODT files. The most popular of these is LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Both are similar in functionality to Microsoft Word, allowing you to:

  • make changes to the ODT document, including correcting typos, adding and deleting text, creating whole new chapters, changing fonts, changing text alignment, changing page size – in short, you can make any change you want.
  • run a spell check on the document, to highlight and correct spelling errors.
  • print the ODT document.
  • convert the ODT document to other word processing formats, including PDF and Microsoft Word.

The ODT format gives users almost unlimited flexibility to modify the document created by Ancestral Author Plus. Like PDF, ODT documents contain hyperlinks, allowing readers to easily navigate relationships, simply by clicking on names.

Furthermore, ODT documents can easily be converted into PDF via a menu selection in LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

Spell Checking

A nice, but often overlooked advantage of ODT format is that LibreOffice and OpenOffice will automatically check the spelling in your document, highlighting spelling errors. It is easy to use the LibreOffice or OpenOffice spell checker to walk through the document, highlight spelling errors in red, and automatically correct the error using the suggestion supplied by LibreOffice (or OpenOffice).

ODT Disadvantages

The one downside to ODT format is that you must install and gain familiarity with LibreOffice or OpenOffice. If you already use one of these programs, then this will be minimal inconvenience. If you use another word processing program, like Microsoft Word, it will be easy to learn the features of LibreOffice or OpenOffice. If you are not familiar with word processing, then you will have to invest some time to learn how to use one of these programs.

The good news is that there are multiple online video tutorials showing how to do all varieties of tasks in LibreOffice and OpenOffice. In addition, the Ancestral Author Plus Help has tutorials showing how to make simple edits in LibreOffice, including:

  • how to change the style of headings,
  • how to change the page numbering format,
  • how to change the footnotes style,
  • how to export to the Microsoft Word format.

To view these help topics, select menu item Help→Contents in Ancestral Author Plus. In the Search tab, search for “LibreOffice Tips And Tricks”.

Downloading And Installing LibreOffice or OpenOffice

LibreOffice can be downloaded here. OpenOffice can be downloaded here. Note that both of these programs are free, and can be installed on any computer, and on any operating system (including Windows, Mac OS/X, and Linux).