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Office '12' to Save Docs in 'Metro' Format

Not only will Microsoft Office “12” feature the ability to save files in PDF format, it will also -- no surprise -- support the company’s own challenger to Adobe’s popular Portable Document Format (PDF) file format.

Previously codenamed “Metro” and first demonstrated by Microsoft last spring, the XML Paper Specification or XPS will be included in Office 12, according to blog entries by several Microsoft officials. The company had previously revealed that XPS support will be included in Windows Vista, due out in the latter part of 2006.

XPS is a paginated document format similar to PDF that Microsoft has based on XML.

“I am happy to confirm that Office ‘12’ will support a native ‘Save as XPS’ feature in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, OneNote and InfoPath,” says a blog post on October 27 by Microsoft’s Jeff Bell, a program manager in the Office group.

“The Windows Digital Documents team is delivering a print driver with Windows Presentation Foundation [formerly codenamed ‘Avalon’] that will enable all applications that can print to create XPS files,” Bell’s blog post continues.

The support for XPS output in Office “12” goes beyond what is typically passed to a printer, he says, “including the supporting information to enable, for example, working hyperlinks, searching, efficient representation of transparency and gradients, accessible documents, and document rights when the source document has restricted IRM [Microsoft’s Information Rights Management] rights.” That enables it to be used in the same kind of read-only document format that PDF has owned for several years.

It’s no surprise that Microsoft plans to incorporate XPS support into Office. The firm’s Web site hosts an XPS page wherein Microsoft clearly states that it is providing APIs in Windows Vista to enable developers to generate “XPS documents from Windows Presentation Foundation applications.”

Microsoft announced and demonstrated PDF support in Office 12 in early October at its MVP Global Summit in Redmond.

That move was seen by some as a nod to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Department, which has proposed to require that all files generated by that department support the OASIS OpenDocument format specification natively by January 2007.

Massachusetts announced its final proposal in late August, allowing applications that save documents in Adobe’s PDF, but not Microsoft’s XML schemas due to legal questions regarding the format’s openness. Also not surprisingly, Microsoft’s promised XPS support will be included in the same Office 12 applications that the company says will support PDF.

A Microsoft official was not immediately available to comment on Office 12’s XPS capabilities.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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