Microsoft releases PDF add-on

The OpenDocument Foundation may release its ODF plug-in, too — with strings attached
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Microsoft has released a free download that will enable Office 2007 users to save documents in both Adobe Systems' PDF format and Microsoft's own rival format, XPS.

In the meantime, the OpenDocument Foundation is keeping its own Microsoft Office plug-in under wraps until next year, but may eventually distribute it as a download tied to Google's software bundle, Google Pack, according to Foundation founder Gary Edwards.

Both plug-ins are aimed at giving Office the ability to work with open standards, something that has become a pressing concern, particularly for government bodies.

Microsoft's add-on works with the different planned versions of Office 2007, which is now in beta testing and expected to be made generally available by the end of the year.

According to the release notes of the download, people can save a document or send an email attachment in PDF or XPS format. Both formats are designed to keep layout consistent for viewing and printing.

The Save as PDF feature, announced last October, prompted Adobe to threaten to file an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in June. In response, Microsoft changed its plans and decided to offer the feature as a separate download rather than have it included within Office 2007.

Microsoft executives have said that Save as PDF was one of the features most requested by its Office customers.

The OpenDocument Foundation said in May that it had finished initial testing on a plug-in that gives the software the ability to work transparently with OpenDocument Format (ODF) documents. The organisation is targeting the plug-in at desktops tied into Microsoft Office, and is submitting the plug-in for testing by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as part of its plan to standardise on ODF.

The Foundation is resisting a public release of the plug-in, partly because this could lessen the appeal of applications designed to use ODF natively, such as StarOffice and OpenOffice.org. Instead, the plug-in will go directly to organisations such as the Massachusetts Government, at least for the near future.

However, the Foundation may provide the plug-in free to users who install Google Pack, as a way of supporting the Google software, Edwards said in an interview this week with industry journal Linux-Watch.

The Foundation "would consider providing the ODF Plug-in for free if we found Google Pack installed on a system. And, conversely charging an arm and leg if Google Pack was not to be found", Edwards said, according to the report. "We've even considered expanding this pricing model to demand that OpenOffice.org also be installed. But perhaps that's pushing it."

There are no plans for the plug-in to be added directly into Google Pack, Edwards said.

Users have shown strong enthusiasm for putting ODF capabilities into Microsoft Office, but industry observers have noted that such a move could damage Office's competitors.

The plug-in is "potentially a very positive thing for Microsoft", said Stephen O'Grady, a RedMonk analyst, when the plug-in was announced.

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

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