There are many ways to store, share and even let others edit documents that your company produces or content you would like to make available for the public, clients or others. Ranging from basic HTML to the .pdf to newer platforms like Google Docs, sharing documents online is easy and is a far better way to spread information than e-mail or the antiquated fax machine. Here are some of the better sharing tools out there:
HTML. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s just best to use good old HTML right on your website, especially if you’re all sharing is a small amount of text. Quick, easy and it can’t be modified or lost in translation. Users simply copy and paste the information they need.
Adobe .pdf. The venerable .pdf (portable document format) has come a long way since it was introduced by Adobe in 1993. There are many benefits to using a .pdf, the chief being that it’s now ubiquitous. Almost every PC manufactured comes with Adobe’s free Acrobat reader, so having the right software to view the document is almost never a problem. The .pdf can also be edited and manipulated by end users who have Adobe’s full Acrobat software package, unless security settings have been enabled to prevent it. A .pdf is usually a pretty authentic representation of the original document, whether it’s a Word file, a photograph, or other content file. A downside is that Adobe’s reader software has become bloated and annoying, frequently reminding users of the need to upgrade and running a continual update checker in the background that may (along with the dozens of other updaters for iTunes and other software that are probably running on your PC) slow you down.
Scribd. Scribd is a popular, free online document sharing provider introduced in 2006 that not only allows users to view documents, but it opens up both the document contributor and the user to the wider world of social document sharing. Much like YouTube for videos, Scribd invites users to browse documents by subject and displays featured and “popular now” documents. Use Scribd if your audience is wider than the accounting department, a few clients, or the Delhi office, because social, interactive and sharing are the names of the game. The best part about Scribd (and its competitor Docstoc) is that no software is necessary—everything takes place through your browser at scribd.com.
Docstoc. Introduced in 2007, Docstoc is very similar to Scribd, with a few notable differences. It didn’t allow personal accounts (only business) until February of this year, and while its basic service is free, it also offers a paid service to host commercial documents. Which one to use? Try them both and see which one you like best.
Google Docs. More than just an online document sharing service, Google Docs is an entire suite of applications designed to compete with the Microsoft Office suite and also free, open-source competitors like Oracle’s Open Office. Google Docs is a good choice for commercial users who wish to restrict access to specified individuals—sort of the opposite of Scribd and Docstoc. Like Scribd and Docstoc, Google Docs takes place entirely in your browser, so there is no need to download software and update it continuously. Another bonus of using a Google product is that Google does anything and everything these days, so it’s usually easy to integrate your Google files into applications like Google Calendar, Picasa, YouTube, Google Earth, external programs like Microsoft Outlook—you name it, and Google is probably offering a way to integrate with it.
So there you go. There are more services and options out there, but these are the most popular and proven. Just don’t let us catch you posting links to Microsoft Word documents on your website any longer!