Microsoft is adding native support for Adobe's portable document format (PDF) in the next version of its office productivity suite, code-named Office 12, which is expected to be available next year.
Microsoft unveiled the support in a meeting at its campus over the weekend, a company spokesperson said by e-mail on Monday.
Office 12 allows users to save files in any Microsoft Office program, such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Word, as a PDF file by using the "save as" command, according to Microsoft. Users can redistribute the created PDF files electronically as read-only files, but they cannot be viewed from within Office itself. A PDF file viewer is still required to view Office-created PDF files on screen.
XML Becomes Default
Microsoft rival Adobe Systems created PDF as a way for documents to be shared easily across applications that support disparate file formats, and it is widely used as a standard way for Internet users to send and receive documents.
Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of the Microsoft Office product development group, demonstrated PDF support in Office 12 during Microsoft's last meeting of the year with about 3000 of its Most Valued Professionals, which are major customers.
A beta of Office 12 is expected to be available before the end of the year.
Microsoft announced in June that XML would be the default file format in Office 12, with the reasoning that XML-based documents would be easier to archive and share since XML is an open standard. Microsoft plans to use the Office 2003 Open XML schemas as the default for saving and creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Office 12.
New File Format
Microsoft also is developing another file format, Metro, that lets users view Office files without using Office applications. The technology is seen by some as Microsoft's own version of PDF. However, Microsoft plans to release Metro as part of the next client version of Windows, Windows Vista, so it's not likely the technology will be used on other operating systems the way PDF is.
Open file formats have garnered attention recently when the state of Massachusetts announced a planned migration to open file formats for all documents generated by its government agencies. The state going forward plans to support the newly ratified Open Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument, as the standard for its office documents.
Developed within the standards body Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), OpenDocument is an XML-based file format that covers the features required by text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical documents.
Suites that support OpenDocument include OpenOffice, StarOffice, KOffice and IBM Workplace. Microsoft Office does not support the file format.