Yes I realized early on that word would require an institutional word-license for viewing on the cloud (thus all course docs are both in pdf and word - easy enough for the 2 teachers/owners to export a pdf from within word once updated/edited - this course requires constant updating).
However after a lot of ploughing through lynda moodle vids and other online resources, it seems pdf's and word docs uploaded to an activity such as a book/chapter/page etc still aren't viewable in-browser...
This is a major downside when you need some kind of overarching organizational format (we have around 7 main topics, several with 7-10 subtopics, each of which are comprised of anywhere from 2-10 lessons, each with corresponding word and pdf files as well as quizzes and media files).
Pop-up functionality is pretty essential for students who will often be relying on ipads, tablets, mobile phones etc (not to mention, being forced to download and open in acrobat reader for every lecture is downright primitive).
Flattening the course structure just to enable popups or separate tabs entails creating 50+ 'topics' and no way to group them.
I don't recall this problem using commercial solutions in undergrad or grad school (USyd, Cornell) whether it was blackboard or whatever it was we used back then. In fact I don't see why such an obvious shortcoming is such a problem for developers to address.
It seems quite a few people out there on the great internet have resorted to hacking moodle source code to overcome this..! Not about to try, know some basic html and css, but that's as far as it goes.
My clients have access to Word and that is pretty much it. As far as effort, copying pasting text and illustrations/embedding media into pages using the wysiwig interface is a no go. They want to simply download word docs, edit, export as pdf, upload them again. Neither has the time or inclination to mess around with the atto editor.
Me adding html code to enable iframes or popups etc obviates the whole exercise, which is to keep this as simple as possible, and completely self-sufficient/self-reliant (no reliance on IT people...a 6th grader should be able to manage it). Ditto they have no time to learn new software packages. I will have to teach them how to upload docs, and enroll students, but that is about as far as it goes ( I don't want to be tech support for the next decade either!).
Thanks for the replies, will have a play around with the books thing, but a bit disappointed frankly with the platform (lots of great stuff! but viewing docs inline not to mention a decent file management system seems pretty basic!).