ODF, PDF become part of Microsoft Office on April 28

In a post this afternoon in an unusual location -- the Microsoft Update blog rather than the Office blog -- the company officially gave its heads-up message that Office 2007 SP2 will be officially released in two weeks, on April 28. In it, users will have the ability to export their open OOXML and "compatibility mode" documents to Open Document Format and to Adobe's PDF format, in the company's first implemented stage of its support for alternate and interoperable document formats.

This will not yet be the same as adopting .ODT documents, .ODS spreadsheets, and .ODP presentations as alternate standard formats for Office applications -- that feature is coming in the next edition of the suite, now due sometime next year. Up to now, the ability for Office 2007 apps to save to PDF and to XPS -- Microsoft's own try at an interoperable display format -- has been available as a downloadable add-in. Now, that functionality will be available to new users without the add-in needing to be installed.

"The 2007 Office Suite SP2 has been tested and is supported for Internet Explorer 8," reads today's announcement. "Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 SP2, Windows 7, and Windows Server [2008] R2 will all be supported upon their release."

Amid other enhancements in SP2: Long-time testers will recall how the new charting object model created for Excel 2007, failed to make the cut for Word and PowerPoint 2007, and then failed the cut again for SP1. Finally, SP2 bridges that gap, so the charting functionality for the main three applications is now evened out.

And in an improvement that has been even longer in coming, the newly patched Access for business users will include the ability to export reports to Excel spreadsheets. Access is no longer among the more widely used database management products, being highly localized in this world of distributed data; yet many business classes including legal and real estate need a way to produce reports from queries that filter a database, in order to export that data yet again to a new line-of-business application. This addition will help those businesses lay stepping stones for such transitions.

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