PDF In-Depth

Editorial: Microsoft comes to the PDF party

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Dan Shea

Planet PDF Managing Editor Dan Shea first became involved with PDF while developing a back-end process for the conversion of paper books for a leading eBook provider. He joined the Planet PDF team as PDF Store Manager, catalyzing a period of unprecedented growth in the area,...  More



For a long time, it has appeared as though Microsoft wasn't a big fan of PDF. In recent times, the Redmond giant has released various technologies that have been tagged as "PDF killers." This list includes the Metro technology for printing and display, which is set to ship with Windows Longhorn and InfoPath for forms. If you look back a bit further, you could even add Microsoft's .LIT eBook format to the tally.

That may now be set to change. The next version of Office -- with the working title of Office '12' -- is to be the first with native PDF support, via "Save to PDF" commands in its Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, OneNote, Visio, and InfoPath programs.

The timing of the announcement after being demonstrated at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference seems to be a remarkable coincidence too, given the state of Massachusetts' recent announcement that it will use only nonproprietary formats in its affiliated offices as of January 1, 2007 -- not long after the product's scheduled release. Further, the meeting of US state CIOs to discuss open formats, among other things, was likely also a consideration. While the policies of US states were probable factors in the announcement's timing, it's unlikely that they were what spurred the development, given the proximity of the two announcements.

I thought I'd try to get an answer "straight from the horse's mouth," as it were... According to the Microsoft spokesperson, "The PDF capability in Office '12' is an answer to ongoing customer feedback discussions and requests." They went on to note that, "Microsoft receives over 120,000 queries per month worldwide requesting the ability to 'save as PDF' in Office."

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