Update (4th February 2013) – Using Chrome and Download As PDF now appears to generate compliant pages in which pagination is honoured without having to enforce page breaks. Word export, however, is still broken and pages/paragraphs do not line up properly.
As much as I love Google Docs, I find its “Download As” export system to be completely useless. If you try and download a Google Docs Document as a PDF or Word file, you’ll probably find that the pagination breaks are completely messed up. Case in point:
The original document on my Google Docs account is a two page, 10 paragraph document using the standard Document settings albeit with page numbers enabled to help identify where the paragraphs towards the page break start and end.
PDF document generated using Google Docs Download As export function. You can clearly see that the paragraphs at the bottom of page 1 and the beginning of page 2 do not align correctly like those in the original Google Docs Document.
Word document generated using Google Docs Download As export function. Like the PDF, you can clearly see that the page break/paragraph alignments are all wrong.
If you don’t want to download or view the above samples, here’s a screenshot of both PDF and Word documents versus the Google Docs document:
As I have the business edition of Google Apps, I filed a support request regarding this and after a few back and forth exchanges, I got the following information out of Google’s Enterprise Support department:
I’ve reproduced the issue in a test account and Google Docs/ Word and PDF versions of the same document show a difference in page breaks. I can confirm that this is currently expected behaviour in Google Docs.
I’ve recorded your case as a feature request to make the document look the same in the browser and the PDF export but I can’t give you an estimated timeline as to when this will be implemented. This feature wouldn’t resolve any inconsistency between browsers.
Text in Google Docs is basically HTML. When a document is opened the browser formats the text based on the size and font type. Each browser/operating system renders fonts differently. A 12 point Arial font looks different in IE vs FF vs Chrome. This is why the same text looks different across different browsers and there isn’t much we can do to change this because it’s a side effect of the way browsers work.
As mentioned in your message using Chrome’s built-in PDF generation when printing resolves the issue between the Google Docs version and the PDF version.
This to me seems unreasonable. While printing documents as PDFs within Chrome is one way around this, to be able to accurately reproduce fonts and formatting within a document across operating systems and browsers is one of the key points to interpretability within organisations. Presentation is just as important as content.
Google’s attitude towards this appears very sucky, and for the time being I’m going to have to stick to using Word and Dropbox (with encrypted filesystem container) to be able to share documents that retain their formatting regardless of electronic or printed status.