Microsoft's forthcoming Office 12 software will allow users to create PDF (Portable Document Format) files within its applications.
Native support for the Adobe format will allow Office users to create PDF documents from within Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Infopath, Access, Publisher, Visio and Onenote applications.
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The PDF is widely used to distribute documents in a ready-to-print format. Anyone can view and print such documents using Adobe's free Acrobat reader. But to produce documents Adobe sells the Distiller package, which converts files to PDF.
The addition of the PDF capability has been made in response to user requests for Microsoft to support a cross-platform document format for printing and viewing pages.
Microsoft senior vice-president Steven Sinofsky said, "Customers today are asking for a format that represents the 'printed page' and can be viewed on multiple platforms, even if a person does not have Microsoft Office."
He said Office 12 users would be able to select PDF as a "save as" file format to produce a PDF document. However, users will not be able to edit PDF documents from Office 12.
Microsoft said that adding support for PDF creation in Office 12 to existing HTML- and Open XML-based native file creation would provide companies with more file and data management options.
Microsoft is also working on an alternative to PDF - the XML Paper Specification (XPS). XPS is Microsoft's long-term strategy to develop a print layout language that supports workflow.