Sending a complete Word document - fonts and all

How to embed the necessary fonts into a Word document so everything is included that the receiver needs to view and edit it.

You’ve made a document, it looks great and you send it off to someone or a print shop. They call complaining that it looks weird and claiming that you don’t you know how to use Word properly.

Most likely the problem is font compatibility. Normally, Word assumes that each computer has the same fonts.

If a font in a document isn’t available on the computer it will choose something that Word thinks is similar. Not that you or I would notice the ‘similarity’ and most likely you’ll see Courier New displayed even though the new of the correct font shows up on the Word toolbar.

You can spend time trying to work out what fonts the receiver will have and I’ll talk about that. However it’s better to embed all the necessary fonts into the Word document.

For some documents you can get away with using the Windows core fonts. I often make fancy documents (pamphlets, flyers etc) where the fonts are less common and tiny differences between the same font on different computers can make a noticeable difference.


Of course all Windows computers should have a core set of TrueType fonts like Arial, Times New Roman and Courier New among many others. Microsoft has a great font team and their site has more info than most people would ever need. You can choose a Microsoft product and see the fonts that are shipped as part of that package.

Generally this works but Murphy’s Law can kick in. Some ‘too clever’ geek might delete or replace one of the core fonts. I’ve seen some deranged network administrators remove core fonts across an entire company – can’t imagine why. Macintosh has similar fonts but they might appear slightly differently – with differences enough to ruin your careful formatting.

Really you should not need to hassle clients and associates with technical questions about what computer they use or what fonts they have installed. Therefore I go for a more complete approach with maximum compatibility.

Thankfully there are two options I use to get around these problems. You can embed the fonts into the document. Or you can send as a PDF file instead or in addition to the Word document.


All the recent versions of Word will let you save the needed fonts into the document. The file will increase in size a little but that should not be a problem these days.

You can save the document after having changed Tools | Options | Save then:

  • Check ‘Embed TrueType fonts’ and
  • UNcheck the ‘Embed characters in use only’ and ‘Do not embed common system fonts’. I’ll explain why below.
  • Click OK

Having all the font characters embedded (not just the ones used) means the receiver can make small changes if necessary.

I include the core fonts as well, in part to ensure compatibility and also if sending the file to the print shop (where they often use Macs, so font compatibility is more of an issue).

For some reason this is a global setting so if you only need it occasionally, remember to reverse the settings after saving the embedded document.


I love Adobe’s Acrobat system – you can send a document to someone and know that it’ll look the way you made it (something that can’t always be said for Word documents). And the PDF files are usually amazingly small with no worries about macro virus infection.

Word can make PDF’s via File | Save As …

Some fonts can’t be included in a PDF due to licence restrictions. Under Options you can cover all possibilities by checking the box ‘Bitmap text when fonts may not be embedded’.

The receiver can’t change the text or formatting in a PDF document which may, or may not, be what you want. I sometimes send a Word document plus a PDF version. The PDF can be a display reference so the receiver can be sure the Word version looks the way you intend.