Works with: Word, Publisher

Today’s Office 2013 feature focus is a two-for-one deal: Word 2013 now lets you read and edit documents in Adobe’s popular PDF format. And Publisher and other applications can save or export publications and documents to PDF format, albeit in a read-only format.

PDF reading occurs through Word’s improved Read mode view and includes all of the features you’d expect to get while reading Word documents, including automatic, columnar reflow.

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In my experience, Word’s performance opening a PDF—it actually converts these documents to the Word document format during the process—can be leisurely, especially for larger and more complex PDFs. However, Microsoft tells me that Word isn’t designed as a general purpose PDF reader, like Adobe Reader. Instead, this compatibility is aimed at editing.

“PDFs are common, but users don’t understand the differences between them and Word documents,” Microsoft’s Julia White told me during a recent briefing. “With today’s reader applications, they can copy and paste things poorly, in a fixed format, but can’t edit the documents. Now, when you open a PDF in Word 2013, a new reflow capability converts the PDF to Word document while retaining the formatting. It’s not for reading, but rather for round-tripping and editing.”

Publisher, meanwhile, had the ability to save publications to PDF (or XPS) format since Office 2007. Note, however, that the resulting document is read-only (unless you open it in Word 2013, of course), and can’t be edited and round-tripped back to Publisher.

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Note: Other Office applications, like Excel, can also export documents to a read-only PDF (or XPS) format.