I don't want to assume that someone has Word installed on their machine. What is the best file format so that everyone can read a document file?

The only ones I can think of are:

  • Rich Text Format
  • Open Document Format
  • Portable Document Format
  • Plaint Text

For example, what would be the best file format to write a resume in? I've actually written mine in XHTML, but some places simply demand a .doc file.

  • 7
    3 letters ... txt :P Jul 16, 2009 at 22:13

6 Answers 6


The best format to write a resume in is latex IMO. I have mine spitting out beautiful PDFs and Word docs.

  • 3
    He wants a file format that others can read, not one that he can write to. Unless he's applying for a job with Donald Knuth, I wouldn't recommend sending a .tex file.
    – phenry
    Jul 16, 2009 at 22:17
  • I like this concept though. I've always wanted to learn latex. Having a source that I could "compile" into different document formats sounds like a great solution.
    – Scott Muc
    Jul 16, 2009 at 22:23
  • You're missing the point phenry, you can generate any format you want easily
    – moshen
    Jul 16, 2009 at 23:52
  • 1
    Some professional journals still prefer LaTeX for submissions; some scientists and mathematicians still use it by default. latex2rtf and latex2html provide some support for conversion to RTF and HTML. The mk4ht script also converts to HTML and, additionally, directly to ODF XML. This latter conversion can be added to the export menu in LyX, for example
    – mas
    Jul 17, 2009 at 16:50
  • 1
    Scott, I have written my resume in LaTeX, if you want it as starting point send me a message, my email is on my profile page. I also have done an XSLT that produces the resume from an XML file. Using XSLT to produce LaTeX was a nice challenge;-). The basic idea was to produce (besides LaTeX) a RTF from the XML resume via Apache FOP and XSLT. I never wrote that piece however. Jul 17, 2009 at 20:53

I'd say PDF. If it's OK that people can't edit it this is the way to go.

I think that still many people will have difficulty to use Open Document Format documents. Theoretically they could just download Open Office but that's not something you would demand from your HR person;-)

Rich Text Format is an option if the addressee wants to edit the document.

For the resume: I have mine in PDF, I made sure that

  • it is less than 5 MB including references
  • the meta data is OK
  • it is searchable (not necessary, but I like that)
  • it looks good when I print it on my B/W printer

Plain text (*.txt) has been mentioned by many others. If you want to communicate only prose this is probably the best thing to do.

If formating is important (like for a resume you send to HR) or you must include images, tables, equations, etc then I'd recommend PDF.

  • I agree that PDF is a capable format but I have problems with recipients using old (or no) versions of a PDF reader and receiving PDF documents that don't have fonts embedded or have not been preflight checked, for examples -- it's good but not without problems.
    – mas
    Jul 17, 2009 at 16:08

Everyone can read .txt

  • 2
    I use it for almost everything... Who wants to wait 5 minutes for your word processing app to load?
    – RCIX
    Jul 17, 2009 at 7:01

Many have suggested PDF because it's a de facto standard. There's actually a version of it called PDF/A which has been standardized by ISO and is intended for archiving and long term preservation of documents.


.doc has been the world's de facto word processing file format for almost 20 years. Someone may not have Word on their machine, but there's a pretty good chance they have something installed that can read .doc files.

  • 1
    Na: it's closer to only 15. Jul 16, 2009 at 22:20
  • 1
    Sure, but I don't have Word. I want to be able to write the document in whatever I want, and have them read the document in whatever they want.
    – Scott Muc
    Jul 16, 2009 at 22:21
  • 3
    Not sure why this was downvoted. Like or not (I definitely don't) but Word .doc (not .docx) is still de facto standard, especially in corporate world. Everyone knows it, everyone knows exactly what to do with a .doc file. Jul 17, 2009 at 0:41
  • 2
    You absolutely do not want to send your resume in .doc format. The resume may look radically different if opened on a computer with a different version of Word or even a different PRINTER than on the computer that created the file. I was burnt by this when I sent my resume to a company that demanded it in .doc format. en.nothingisreal.com/wiki/… has some interesting arguments. Jul 31, 2009 at 18:14
  • 1
    You really think anyone cares about the formatting and margins of a resume?
    – JohnFx
    Oct 8, 2009 at 1:47

For a resume I'd supply a PDF (ubiquitous and can't be easily edited) but have a DOC ready if it's requested.

I've known some recruiters who wanted DOC files because they had resume indexing software that didn't work with PDF files.

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