October 3, 2005

Formatting nuttiness! The next version of MS Office will include support for Adobe's PDF format. Brian doesn't mention what "native support" really means, but I imagine there will at least be an "Export to PDF" button or a similar option in the Save As dialog box.

There are a bunch of things to talk about with this move. Is this a shot across the bow at Framemaker? No, probably not; everyone knows that MS Word can't handle the organization and printing of huge documents the way Framemaker can. But this announcement is definitely aimed at Acrobat. Is this a shot at OpenOffice.org? Most definitely - exporting to PDF is listed as a primary feature of OpenOffice.org Writer. The capability is certainly one of the reasons I use OpenOffice.org at home. Now OOo has one less differentiating feature. But hey, it's free, and the good ol' city of Austin uses it too!

PDF support also puts MS software back in the running for the state government of Massachusetts, which mandated that all government employees must now use open-format office software. MS Word's .doc format doesn't qualify under that rule, but the PDF format sure does.

What remains to be seen is how PDF support will affect Metro, MS's own easily-accessible-open-everywhere format. What advantages will Metro have over PDF? Instead of simply equalling PDF's functionality, Metro now has to differentiate itself. Could be tricky; could be interesting. Certainly the inclusion of fun transparent "Aero" graphics can't be enough, nor can the "rights-management" functionality MS plans to include.

I doubt things will change much here at NI, where we use Framemaker for the PDF documents. I think this move is solely to placate governments (both local, state, national, and international) that do not want to rely on a single software vendor for access to creating and reading the majority of official documents. Massachusetts was just the latest example; more are sure to follow.

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