Microsoft adding XPS, PDF, ODF file support in Office SP2


OfficelogoGood news for folks using or looking to use alternatives in conjunction with Microsoft Office. Next year’s SP2 for Office will include new document formats: XML Paper Specification (XPS), Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.5, PDF/A and Open Document Format (ODF) v1.1 to be specific. My oft-used Google Docs will benefit greatly as I often have to move back and forth between apps, depending on who I’m working with (and what they’re using).

"When using SP2, customers will be able to open, edit and save documents using ODF and save documents into the XPS and PDF fixed formats from directly within the application without having to install any other code. It will also allow customers to set ODF as the default file format for Office 2007."

Look for the new features in the first half of 2009 when SP2 is expected. Native ink annotation in PDF’s would be nice, no?

Update: I almost forgot about the ODF plugin for Office that’s been around for some time. SP2 will provide native ODF support.


Reverse Anti-Fanboy

Some corrections to above post, made in haste.

Missing zero. About 1000 lines of code, not 100. The sample actually does save directly into the XPS file, but it doesn’t do freeform annotations — someone could extend it to do so. Here’s the link, for those of you that are developers:

Berkshire’s letter is only available in PDF format. Try some other file with small font. Or just copy-and-paste text into Word 2007. Notice: (1) Margins are auto-suppressed (2) How small the UI is, while still maintaining access to major features. Compare to: PDF Annotator’s full-screen mode, which eats up whole screen and has an awkward floating toolbar. Bluebeam’s massive UI (and you can’t get menus back without pressing F4 on the keyboard, which doesn’t exist on a slate PC, and doesn’t exist on the TIP soft keyboard — what genius thought this up?).

Reverse Anti-Fanboy

Put aside your anti-Microsoft prejudices for thirty seconds and try a little experiment. Download Warren Buffet’s letter to shareholders from the Berkshire Hathaway website, available in both Word and PDF format.

Open the Word document in Word 2007, in Reading View. Now open the PDF version in either PDF Annotator or Bluebeam Revu, either one. Compare and contrast the user experience in an essay of 500 words.

It’s clear that Microsoft has expended some development effort to optimize the Word reading experience for Tablet PC users. In contrast, both PDF Annotator and Bluebeam Revu treat the Tablet PC user like an afterthought. (Actually, we are afterthoughts, because the Tablet PC market is so small.)

If I were you, I’d be jumping up and down with joy if Microsoft ever did a PDF annotator. It’s got to be better than anything that exists today. (I use Bluebeam PDF Revu because I couldn’t stand PDF Annotator’s bugs, but I’d ditch Bluebeam if a better one came along.) Unfortunately, Microsoft has a severe NIH syndrome, so it’s not likely to happen.

Also, if you don’t like Microsoft’s efforts in the Tablet PC arena, I suggest you go out and buy a Macintosh Tablet. Which doesn’t exist.

P.S. There’s a 100-line code sample on MSDN that mashes up ink-annotation with XPS viewing. It’s only a code sample, so it doesn’t actually do the most important part, which is to save it in the same file (it saves it as a sidecar). Now consider if someone actually spent some time on a real XPS annotation application.

William R. Brohinsky

If you want ink-editing of PDF’s, you can get that now from Grahl: PDF-Annotator. I picked it up (it’s a steal at the ~$50 list price, but for students with tablets, it’s only ~$30) to use for school. I was ghosting a few classes, and the professors would send me tests in PDF. I’d open them in PDF-Annotator, make my answers with the tablet pen, save the result (with my name appended to the original file name) and send it back. One prof got PDF-Annotator just to mark my tests, and found himself using it for a lot of other things. The rest just printed them out, marked them up and emailed me with comments and a grade.

I doubt that Microsoft will duplicate the utility of Grahl’s software in the next decade: they’re too busy bloating their software with things we don’t need.

Here’s a question that may deserve a tutorial: Word is going to allow saving in XMS format, but what reads it?

Dave Beauvais

Yeah, Adobe is really irritating that way. Either it’s an open standard that people are free to develop for or it’s not; you can’t have it both ways. They’re just terrified that if every Windows Office user can create PDFs from their Office documents, nobody will ever need to buy the full version of Acrobat again. So why not stop Apple from including native PDF creation support in every copy of OS 10.x? Or the major Linux distributions?

I’m a little disappointed to see that the PDF support to be included in SP2 will be PDF 1.5 and not the PDF 1.7 version that was recently accepted as ISO standard 32000.

Mr. Crash

PDF was actually included natively in the beta version of office 2007…

I always wondered why it got taken out in retail.

Didn’t know about the injunction thing.
Silly Adobe.

Ryan Beesley

Correct Simon. To get this capability right now, click on my name or the link below…

Adobe filed an injuncture to prevent Microsoft from including the PDF capability (despite the fact that it is an open standard that everyone else already supports), and also to prevent Microsoft from including XPS because it would be a monopoly. It’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black.


The plug-in for XPS and PDF has been around since Office 2007 came out as well. It was rumored to have been removed from the original Office 2007 and moved out to a seperately downloaded plug-in to appease Adobe. Sounds like SP2 is just a roll up of these already available plug-ins which is quite common thing for MS to do in service packs.

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