Microsoft to Build PDF Support Into Office 12

The software kingpin also is releasing pre-Beta 1 Office 12 bits to some of its Most Valuable Professionals.
Microsoft will build into its forthcoming Office 12 desktop suite a “save to PDF” capability, according to Office program manager Brian Jones. Jones communicated word of Microsoft’s PDF plan for Office 12 on his blog on Saturday afternoon. He posted that Microsoft will add native support for PDF in Word 12, Excel 12, PowerPoint 12, Access 12, Publisher 12, OneNote 12, Visio 12 and InfoPath 12.

Jones’ disclosure was somewhat surprising, given Microsoft’s announcement earlier this year of plans to incorporate “Metro,” Microsoft’s PDF/PostScript alternative, into Windows Vista. (Microsoft currently is using the XML Paper Specification (XPS) to refer to many of its Metro components.) And Microsoft’s Metro announcement was seen by industry watchers just one of a growing number of direct shots by Microsoft at Adobe’s PDF/PhotoShop/Illustrator empire.

Jones’ post also is somewhat puzzling, given the fact that Microsoft forbade the Office 12 Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) who attended last week’s Global MVP Summit from disclosing particulars about Microsoft’s next-generation Office suite, which is due to ship in the latter half of 2006. Microsoft officials did acknowledge to Microsoft Watch that the Office team did provide pre-Beta 1 Office 12 bits to MVPs who attended the conference, albeit under strict non-disclosure-agreement (NDA) terms. “Microsoft Office MVPs will receive a pre-beta release of Office “12” code under strict NDA,” a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed late last week. “The MVPs form an essential part of Microsoft’s customer feedback processes and are now being involved earlier than ever in providing feedback about next version of Office products.

Microsoft officials confirmed last week, again, via corporate Web logs, that Microsoft is expecting to release a first full-fledged Beta 1 of Office 12 in “late fall/early winter.”
Microsoft also is expected to include a PDF-export capability in its recently unveiled Expression Graphic Designer product, which is code-named “Acrylic.” Acrylic is expected to go head-to-head with Adobe’s PhotoShop product.

“Acrylic is licensed to export PDF files, as (is) the new version of Office. So those that are in love with PDF have no complaints,” said one Office developer, who requested anonymity.

“Man, I bet Adobe wished they could do that one (licensing deal) over!” the developer added.

While it has yet to release publicly any of its Office 12 bits, officials on the usually tight-lipped Office team have been sharing an uncharacteristic amount of information in advance about the Office 12 family of products.

At the recent Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft showed for the first time publicly the new user interface for its Office 12 desktop suite.

Most of the focus was on the “Ribbon,” which is “the one place you go to find the commands that are all about authoring -creating the document, the presentation or the spreadsheet you’re working on,” according to the company.

Other Office 12 user interface features include galleries; live previews, which allow users to hover over items to see how they will change if they make a certain selection; super tool tips; a quick-access tool bar for customizing Office; and, the unfortunately code-named “Floaties,” which are balloons that present users with common commands, such as “bolding” in Word.

Microsoft officials also disclosed early this year plans to make XML the default file format for Office 12.


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