Microsoft adds native PDF support to Office 12

Microsoft is adding native support for PDF (portable document format) 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 with partners at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus Saturday, a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail Monday morning.

Office 12 will 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.

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 3,000 of its Most Valued Professionals (MVPs).

Microsoft announced in June that XML (extensible markup language) 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.

Microsoft also is developing another file format, Metro, that allows users to 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 OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), 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.

A beta of Office 12 is expected to be available before the end of the year.

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