Today's another exciting day as we move closer to Beta 1. We are just wrapping up the MVP summit here in Redmond and we've finally announced another piece of functionality I've wanted to talk about for a long time now. This afternoon Steven Sinofsky announced to our MVPs that we will build in native support for the PDF format in Office "12".  I constantly get asked by customers if we can build in this support for publishing documents as PDF files, and now I can thankfully say "yes!" It's something we've been hearing about for years, and earlier in this project we decided that while there were already existing third party tools for doing this, we should do the work to build the functionality natively into the product.

The PDF support will be built into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, OneNote, Visio, and InfoPath! I love how well this new functionality will work in combination with the new Open XML formats in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. We've really heard the feedback that sharing documents across multiple platforms and long term archiving are really important. People now have a couple options here, with the existing support for HTML and RTF, and now the new support for Open XML formats and PDF!

This really all comes down to the basic theme of content sharing. We realize that this is a really important scenario, and that's why we're making the move to default XML formats that are fully documented. Now we've moved to the files being in open, redistributable, and archivable formats; and we can focus more of our innovations around ways to act on those formats. This is true on the client and the server.

I've been trying for the past couple months to explain the process we use for deciding what features to invest in. It's a balance between investing in our analysis of what customers need next, and what customers say explicitly that they need. The former is the type of investment we have made with the new user interface. We looked hard at how people get work done and what they want to do that is too hard and figured out an easier way. In the case of PDF though, it was a really simple straightforward problem. Currently, on our OfficeOnline site, we are seeing over 30,000 searches per week for PDF support. That makes a pretty easy decision :-) We have put a lot of effort and time into making this work well and Steven was ready to show it this weekend.

Of course we get requests for other formats too, but not nearly to this scale. I've heard some folks comment asking the question: "Why is Microsoft going to so much effort to not support the format I'm interested in?" This is to be expected, because every customer has unique views that we want to respect; but it's work and cost to build and support a format... work and resources that go on for a long time. In the case of PDF (as with almost any format) it was a good amount of work, but it is a mature, widely demanded addition that will be worth the effort. Another example would be the new XML formats we're building which have taken a huge effort on the part of the PowerPoint, Excel, and Word teams. In Word there was the benefit of having a head start with the WordprocessingML format from Word 2003. For the other two applications though, it's been about 20% of their overall development budget, which is huge considering all the other things we are building into Office "12".

-Brian