Starting with IPEX 2002, this blog covers events relevant for UK print, including Seybold and DRUPA. See also website at

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Apparently Adobe have caused Microsoft to remove easy access to capability for PDF and XPS from the new version of Office intended to work with Windows Vista. At least the capability will be harder to find. Details through PlanetPDF and PDFZone.

My take is that this is just the start of a transition around Vista to a new level of graphics. This has started with Flash but will go much wider. Why Microsoft is putting out the business version first is a bit of a mystery. History shows that it is people at home who will invest in the new kit to show off what new software can do. The corporate sites will not see much benefit in graphics and will wait for a later version anyway.

Details on Acrobat 8 are very scarce but there is some information in the Flash community about Apollo, apparently some way to work with Flash sites offline. This could be a better way of embedding Flash in PDF. It will already be obvious that I know no detail on what I am speculating about. Which is why my general conclusion is to wait till sometime next year to form any definite view on what will be in Vista, Office or Acrobat 8 or whatever it may be called, maybe something like new and improved Flash container.

Shorthand for this new phase could be 'PDF 2.0'. Again it is obvious speculation to suggest there will be a new number for PDF anytime soon. Still, the phase of transition from Postscript as page description seems to be coming to an end. In an article for PlanetPDF, Karl De Andrew writes "Remember, the question hasn't been whether the basic PDF creation is going to end being free -- the question has always been when." In PDFZone Don Fluckinger recalls that PDF 1.0 came out in the early '90s. This is quite a long time ago in the history of file formats that a company can treat as a franchise.

My impression at the recent Adobe Live in the UK was that PDF for print production or office documents was not a priority. Rich features as in Flash were more prominent. Presumably there will be more possibilites in Adobe products that go beyond what is possible with Microsoft products in Vista.

However my interest is still with PDF 1 point something, in particular the standards for pre-press and archiving. XML is an alternative for archiving as is the Open Document Format available in Open Office for example. Open Office is looking really attractive if it turns out that 'Save as PDF' will not appear in Microsoft products unless another payment is made to Adobe. The 'save as PDF' in Open Office works really well and seems a bit quicker than using Adobe plug-ins to Office. Maybe it helps that the code is written by the same organisation.

Scribus is also looking good. As DTP it offers more design features and saves to pre-press ready PDF. It may lack some of the recent features of InDesign and Quark but my guess is that it offers most of what most people actually use. There is technical support now available. Scribus is sponsored by a German Linux magazine that also supports some space at Cebit so there could be more information on Scribus around next Spring, possibly in time for a stable version of Vista. Many people will look at the features available through Open Source and find them fit for some purposes.

XML has some relation to XPS, the XML paper system developed for Microsoft by Global Graphics. There is discussion about whether Microsoft will actually offer an open standard consistent with XML. It is too early to know how this will work out. Most people need a format that stores documents and a format they can get printed. As open as possible. The choice will be towards anything that helps this and away from any blocks.

Global Graphics have supported JDF as an open standard as well as working with PDF. It is possible to imagine they will support XPS as described. If this turns out to be difficult other ways of printing from XML will be developed over time.

To sum up, my impression is that the Adobe / Microsoft discussion is mostly about products that do not exist at this time. They will be very exciting, but for most of this year attention would be better placed on technology that has already happened and could become more widely available as it is more easily afforded.

Meanwhile, a thorough search on Google reveals that the only hard information on Acrobat 8 is the pre-press wish list.

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