Next Office 2007 service pack will include ODF, PDF support options

In a breakthrough development, Microsoft has announced its future editions of Microsoft Office, beginning with Service Pack 2 for Office 2007, will enable users to choose OpenDocument support as an alternate default option.

Microsoft's director of corporate standards, Jason Matusow, and its senior product manager for ISO 29500-based products, Doug Mahugh, jointly confirmed the news to BetaNews personally.

Beginning with Office 2007 Service Pack 2 -- which for the first time, Microsoft acknowledged this morning will be available during the first half of 2009 -- users will be presented with an option, both during installation and through options settings, enabling them to choose ODF as the default save format for spreadsheets, documents, and presentations. In a remarkable move that also shows how much Adobe's format has become an independent standard in its own right, PDF format will also be offered as an optional default, as well as Microsoft's XML Paper Specification (XPS) portable format.

This goes many steps beyond the ability to export documents to what would be considered foreign formats. With one-time settings, users will be able to say their own native format is not Office Open XML, the current default format of Office 2007, but one of these three other formats instead. This puts Office in direct functional competition not only with distributors of the OpenOffice suite such as Novell and Sun, but with Adobe's Acrobat Professional as well. Users will still be able to save in other formats, through a selection made from the Save as type combo box in the Save as dialog box.

Furthermore, Matusow and Mahugh told BetaNews, the next edition of the applications suite -- still code-named "Office 14" -- will support ISO 29500 as one of its optional default formats. In other words, this will be the amended version of Microsoft's format, which will be considered by the company as the successor to "Office" Open XML. As Mahugh told us, the decision has yet to be made with regard to how to handle saving to the existing Office 2007 format, although the possibility that users of Office 14 will need to export documents to the older Office 2007 format for an older generation of users, remains open. This would be similar to how Microsoft Word 2003 from Office XP, for instance, offered users an option to save in Word 97 format for compatibility purposes.

BetaNews has also learned that Microsoft intends to publish an open API for developers of document format extensions, or developers of their own original formats -- should such a cottage industry ever emerge -- that would enable them to plug their own XML schemas into Office 14, letting users install those formats as Office's default save format in place of ISO 29500, ODF, XPS, and PDF. In the meantime, the company will be working on its own loading and saving options for Office documents using the Chinese national standard UOF format, perhaps using this API for the job.

In the event that users choose a default document format that fails to contain a function supported by an Office application -- for instance, embedded WordArt or conditional cell formatting in a worksheet -- the non-supported function will remain available to the user, Mahugh told BetaNews; in other words, its menu or ribbon command won't be grayed and turned off. But users will be warned at save time that certain elements of their document cannot be saved in their default format of choice. They may be given the option to save in another format, or perhaps convert non-supported content to another form.

More news from BetaNews' extensive interview with Microsoft's Doug Mahugh and Jason Matusow, about their company's extraordinary turn of events, is forthcoming in BetaNews.

22 Responses to Next Office 2007 service pack will include ODF, PDF support options

  1. bourgeoisdude says:

    [i]PDF format will also be offered as an optional default, as well as Microsoft's XML Paper Specification (XPS) portable format.[/i]

    Good. I'm tired of PDF being touted as "open source" for everyone but Microsoft to use.

    Yeah, I still hold a grudge against Adobe for having a double-standard over MS initially having to remove the functionality because Adobe threatened them back just before Office 2007 was released.

    In many ways this isn't such a big deal as for the PDF and XPS part since a free download from Microsoft adds this functionality currently anyway.

    • preinterpost says:

      U mean u get 'save to PDF' support with some download from MSFT? Googling.... Hah! There it is! Cool. Thanks!

    • Paul Skinner says:

      "Yeah, I still hold a grudge against Adobe for having a double-standard over MS initially having to remove the functionality because Adobe threatened them back just before Office 2007 was released."

      ^Very much this^

  2. methuselah says:

    Interesting.

    IF this means Word will also EDIT a .pdf file it has previously saved, or imported, that's great. If not, ho-hum, almost every other word processor in the last 15-20 years have been able to save to .pdf.

    Being able to default save to ODF is nice. It will join the ranks of other software manufacturers. I'd hardly call it, "many steps beyond the ability to export documents..." The devil is always in the details. If one of those details means their default ODF save screws with the format such that it will no longer import well into MSO, or it won't be the same as if one created it in another program, then it won't be much of a big deal. (consider the strange .rtf problems of the past.)

    I had to chuckle when I read they are changing their own format yet again. Shall we all sing, "You have to buy another round of the latest MS Office," again?

    • mjm01010101 says:

      PDF is a crap editable format. It is meant to be a final version format, where changes/additions aren't ideal. Even adobe's latest version of acrobat sucks at editing pdf's...

  3. foxfyre says:

    Slashdot hits the reason for this on the head!
    http://tech.slashdot.org/tech/08/05/21/1818237.shtml

    "About two hours ago, Microsoft announced that it will update Office 2007 to natively support ODF 1.1, but not to implement its own OOXML format. Not until Office 14 is released (no date given so far for that) will anyone be able to buy an OOXML ISO-compliant version. Why will Microsoft do this after so many years of refusal? Perhaps because the only way it can deliver a product to government customers that meets an ISO/IEC document format standard is by finally taking the plunge, and supporting 'that other format.'"

    As far as PDF conversion, anyone contemplating buying a new version of Office for this limited feature set is making a rather rather absurd and expensive step when PDF Converter offers MANY more options for much less.

    • PC_Tool says:

      Slashdot and Andy Upgrove....

      Yeah, totally unbiased reporting to be had there, for sure.

      But hey, thanks for the laugh.

    • SMFulton3 says:

      The conclusion Andy Updegrove initially jumped to there turns out to be not quite accurate: Microsoft will be supporting the ISO 29500 format as one default option among others. Remember, ISO 29500 is [i]not[/i] OOXML, at least not now. There are differences, so there will probably have to be some kind of "backward compatibility" option for OOXML support in Office 14, though that hasn't yet been absolutely decided.

      -SF3

      • PC_Tool says:

        [i]The conclusion Andy Updegrove initially jumped to there turns out to be not quite accurate: [/i]

        *laughs*

        Shocking...really.

  4. mjm01010101 says:

    Microsoft Office hasn't had significant features since 2000. That was the real last version of Office that was feature complete. If you learn Office 2000 in and out, you will be able to create and use Office documents just as easily, using fewer threads, than any recent release of Office. I dare say Outlook 2003 was the only version worth upgrading to because of its large pst support.

    • bourgeoisdude says:

      Honestly I didn't see any super-important changes between 97 and 2000. From 2000 to 2002 (XP) nothing at all really, from XP to 2003, yeah, the unicode .pst files are great, along with much better security features for Outlook in general. 2007 was a huge jump, for better or worse, IMO.

      • mjm01010101 says:

        2000 was the last version you needed to open the most common .doc format.

        Now that docx is out, we have seen how lame it is to stay with Microsoft: another round of incompatibilities and converters required, because of an interface change?

        laughable.

    • templar™ says:

      Wow! Have you used PowerPoint 2007??? Go use it for a few weeks and perhaps you would like to edit your post. ;)

  5. Paul Skinner says:

    I for one (and I fully appreciate the reasons of all those who disagree) am starting to finally trust that Microsoft are moving in the right direction.

    Someone somewhere in Microsoft is making the decisions to bring in people who know what they're doing and know how to do it well.

    IE8 is a start, and Windows 7 looks promising.

    I disagree with mjm01010101 saying that Office 2000 was the last version worth buying.
    Office 2007 is the most fantastic product I have seen Microsoft come out with to date. Yes, it's basically only a rearrangement of the layout of the menus, but it's so simple and everything is in the correct place. The default font is very nice, and the available themes for tables, PowerPoints, etc. are all of a very high quality.

    And yes, Vista is a pig. It was started when Microsoft had properly lost its way and went through a torrid time and was released half-baked.

    Offering to have ODF as the default is a good start, and something pleasing to hear. That the ability to save to PDFs will be included in the service pack is wonderful, as Adobe were such hypocrites about that.

    /ramble

    • mjm01010101 says:

      "Office 2007 is the most fantastic product I have seen Microsoft come out with to date. Yes, it's basically only a rearrangement of the layout of the menus, but it's so simple and everything is in the correct place. The default font is very nice, and the available themes for tables, PowerPoints, etc. are all of a very high quality."

      I rest my case.

      • Paul Skinner says:

        You rest your case that it is the best product Microsoft has produced to date?

        Adding features (and usually therefore bloat) isn't always the way forward.

        Neatening up the layout of a product is also a valid way of pleasing consumers when it is such a vast improvement.

  6. fewt says:

    Wonder if it'll work in wine :-/

  7. YouSirName says:

    Microsoft has always maintained that OOXML was for legacy documents and their upcoming support for ODF is consistent with that. After all, why would they care about the file format? It's the application that they sell - the file format(s) just come along for the ride.

    Now all the talk is "bloated application blah blah blah..." - let's face it, some people wouldn't be happy even if Bill Gates personally gave them a footbath at their workstation each morning. The fact is that what Microsoft is doing will have a positive impact on unlocking data from documents. The nooxml crowd were wrong.

  8. AlphaBetaGamma says:

    Now Microsoft will be so successful that some people will start complaining that it is an anti-competitive tactic. The EU will probably fine them another $400M. I will be buying another copy though.

    • mjm01010101 says:

      Fine the user $400 for Office Tripe.

      -or-

      Fine the Software company $400 Mil.

      Decisions, Decisions.

  9. flake says:

    People may want to read this blog about some of the "whys":
    http://blogs.technet.com/gray_knowlton/archive/2008/05/21/microsoft-adds-save-as-odf-to-office-2007-service-pack-2.aspx

    It's pretty funny to read, "There are really two central catalysts for these actions. One of these is the feedback we have received from the regulatory environment." Regardless of where the feedback came from, it is nice to see things moving in the right direction. :)

  10. pmirow says:

    I suspect that Microsoft will do what it has always done.

    Give something for free to access more market, then tighten the EULA or patent portions to control usage.

    Or maybe they will just say that this Office capability is not available to save in that format.

    Its always something with those guys.

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