The headline says it all really, but we were keen for a little insight into the reasoning behind Microsoft's decision to finally offer wholehearted support for a format it has largely stayed clear of for over a decade. We grabbed Office Product Manager Darren Strange for a succinct grilling.
TR: Darren good of you to join us. Tell me, after so many years, why did Microsoft decide it should natively support pdf?
DS: The main reason is the sheer demand from our customers. We were receiving over 120,000 requests per month worldwide via our product feedback system for this feature, so it was clear it was something we should build into Office 12. PDF is a popular format, widely used by many of our customers and the upcoming release of Office provides a good opportunity for us to add support for it. PDF support provides an additional option for customers alongside the wider file format investments we are making such as the default OpenXML format used by Office “12”.
TR: With Microsoft moving all documents to XML by default in Office 12, why broaden what appeared to be a streamlined format scenario?
DS: We’re not looking to broaden Office to incorporate all available standards, but the sheer number of people that wanted the pdf feature meant that it was essential we included it. Our focus, though, is still on developing XPS to give customers a unified and open way of creating and managing the documents they need. The growing use of advanced graphics and extended colour information in Office documents and Web applications required a fundamental change to the Windows presentation and print architectures. XPS addresses both of these needs. Because XPS is based on open standards and is available royalty-free, numerous companies in the graphics, document and printing industries plan to integrate support for it, which will all be to the benefit of customers.
TR: How will users go about creating a pdf in Office 12? What application(s) will handle this?
DS: People will be able to create pdfs via the Office “12” client applications – specifically Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, InfoPath, Publisher, Visio, Project, and OneNote. The applications will offer the capability to save documents in the PDF format, which will include a fixed layout representation of the document.
TR: Will we see any updates that will enable pdf support and creation in existing Office editions?
DS: The functionality already does exist in some of our products – Office for the Mac and LiveMeeting both offer this feature already. Apart from those products, we don’t have any plans at the moment to extend support to other existing versions of Office; we’re really focusing at the moment on making sure Office 12 is right for our customers.
Short and to the point, our thanks to Darren for being a gent and sating our curiosity on this one. It also goes to show that old saying about people power is true. So if a few million of you still want to see pdf functionality turn up in Office XP and 2003, you know how to turn the heat up ;)