PDF and XPS Options in Publisher, Word, and PowerPoint

There are 8 applications in the Office 2007 suite that can save as PDF or XPS.  Of these all except InfoPath allow you to set a number of options when saving your files.  This week well take an in-depth looks at the options shared by all the applications that have options, and we’ll look at the options that are Specific to Publisher, Word, and PowerPoint.  I’m choosing to focus on these three applications because they have the widest variety of options.

First, a quick review of what PDF and XPS are.  These are file formats that allow you to save your document to a fixed representation of the file and give you a robust way to share documents that will not be changed or will not be changed by anyone but you.  PDF, or Portable Document Format, was previously owned by the Adobe Corporation, and is now an international standard called ISO 32000.  XPS is the XML Paper Specification.  It is currently owned by Microsoft, but is in the process of becoming an international standard.  Both formats can be viewed using a variety of tools, including free downloadable readers from Adobe or Microsoft.  In the case of XPS, a reader is also built into Vista and Windows 7.

Okay, back to the options dialogs.  If you have been using the Save to PDF or XPS capabilities in Office 2007 and haven’t explored these options, you may be missing out on a whole range of cool functionality.
How are the options accessed?  You can get to these via the Change (in Publisher) or Options (in the other Office 2007 applications) button that is available in the Save As dialog or in the Save As PDF or XPS dialog.

Once the options dialog is opened, it’s appearance will vary depending on which application you are using, but there are also options that are common in all the applications.  Let’s look first at the application-specific options because you have to see those to get to the shared options.  I’ll start with Publisher.  After all, this is the Publisher blog!

One of Publisher’s primary uses is to print files used for marketing or created for some other communication where you would like to be able to do layout on a page that contains not only text but also images.  As you might imagine, the PDF and XPS options specific to Publisher focus primarily on printing tasks.  There are three states to the options dialog for Publisher:  for PDF creation, for XPS creation, and Advanced options for either XPS or PDF creation.

Here is what the dialog looks like for PDF creation before you expand it to show the Advanced options:

Minimum options dialog in Publisher
In this state, the dialog simply lets you specify how you want to use the file after you save to PDF or XPS.  We often refer to this as your output intent.  An intent describes how you want to use the file and then optimizes images and fonts to create the file.  This is especially important to consider when you are sharing a file via email or on the web.  For that use, you want the smallest possible file, so you choose Minimum Size.  If you choose another option, like Commercial Press, your images will be saved with a higher resolution and your fonts will be saved to file with the maximum amount of information that the font license allows.  Commercial Press PDF files are much larger when saved with the defaults than Minimum Size files.  If you ever have a file that you have saved to the web that opens especially slowly, check the file size.  If it seems really large, go back to the original Publisher file, change this setting, and save to PDF again.  If the file has a smaller size, you’ll know that was the reason it was opening so slowly.  Similarly, if you are trying to send a file via email but the file size exceeds what your email will allow, try changing this setting and resaving.

After you click on the Advanced button, your dialog will expand to look like this:
Expanded Publisher dialog
If you click on a different item under “Specify how this publication will be printed or distributed, you’ll see that the numbers change in the area under Pictures.  This goes back to one of the automatic parts of what I mentioned earlier about changing picture resolution to manipulate file size.  The defaults for each of the settings is optimized for that use.  For instance, the High quality printing settings are set to be perfect for printing to most digital printers or good quality desktop printers without creating huge file sizes.  Yes, you can get higher dpi than the numbers here for most desktop printers these days, but the quality of the print out is not going to be noticeable enough that you’ll want to have an enormous file taking up space on your hard drive.  So we are making trade-offs in the default settings, and we generally err on the side of creating good quality files with the smallest possible file size.

You’ll also notice that there is a section here called Design Checker.  When this check box is checked, Publisher will automatically run the Design Checker tool and let you know if you have issues regarding transparency or color.  This is turned off by default in all situations unless you have select the Commercial Press intent.  The Design Checker tool is most useful when you are sending a file to a print shop.  It can be useful for other situations as well, but it’s usually not as necessary.

I’m going to skip the rest of the options in this dialog for now.  We’ll discuss them in a bit when I talk about the options that are shared among the Office 2007 applications.

The Save as XPS dialog is very similar to the Save as Publisher dialog in Publisher:
Publisher XPS options
As you can see in the picture above, the options for Commercial Press and the Design Checker are gone.  This is because Publisher doesn’t yet include CMYK color support in the XPS file format.  CMYK format is crucial for commercial printing, or more specifically for what is called Offset Printing.  To encourage users to chose the format that will work best for taking Publisher-created PDF files to a commercial print shop, we hide the options that would make it look like XPS is the right choice for that.  It may be the case that this changes in later releases of the product if we add CMYK support to Publisher or if lots of commercial print shops start accepting XPS files. (And no, that’s not a hint about a change you can expect to see in the next version of Publisher, just a statement of possibilities.)

There is one last interesting thing that is specific to Publisher in these dialogs:  the Print Options button.  This button opens a dialog that allows you to select the page range you want to save to PDF or XPS (the default is all pages), as well as change a few other page-related options.  Other than the page range options, the one most useful for most publications is an option to change the paper size.  The default is whatever size you’d be printing to if you were printing the file instead of saving it.

Word’s Save as PDF and Save as XPS options dialogs are identical, except in one section that changes for all applications with XPS output capability. 

For PDF the dialog looks like:
Word PDF options dialog 
Again, as in Publisher, the options at the top of the dialog are those that are specific to the application. 
Word's PDF and XPS options
Word allows you to control the page range from here, rather than having you tunnel to a separate dialog.  It also lets you choose whether you want to print the reviewers marks or not with two radio buttons under the Publish what section.  Finally, under the Include non-printing information, Word offers two Word-only options for adding bookmarks to your PDF or XPS file.  You can choose to use either your heading styles or your bookmarks within the Word file for the PDF bookmarks. 

I’ll talk about the remainder of the options shown here in the section on the shared options.

The PowerPoint dialog is similar to Word in that it allows you to change the page range to save from the options dialog.  In the case of PowerPoint, however, this is the slide range instead of the page range.  The dialog, shown below, also allows you to chose whether to save just the slides, the slides and notes, or an outline of your presentation to PDF or XPS.  It also lets you choose some layout options if you choose to save the slides from a multi-slide presentation.  You can choose to include, or not, any hidden slides or comments and ink markup.
Here is the whole dialog:
PowerPoint PDF or XPS options

And here are the options specific to PowerPoint at the top of that dialog:
Specific PowerPoint options
The remainder of the options are shared by the other Office 2007 applications. Scroll to the next section to learn more about these options.

Options Shared by the Office 2007 Applications
So far, I haven’t talked about the options in the bottom portions of any of these dialogs.  These are a set of options shared by multiple Office 2007 applications that  are either specific to things you can do with either XPS or PDF but not both, or are for non-printing information that can be common to all PDFs or all XPS files.
Shared options
There are two shared “non-printing” options: one is for adding document properties to your files and the other is for adding information that will make your PDF or XPS files more accessible.  Both of these options are on by default.  Neither can be turned off if you save as PDF/A, which I’ll talk about more in a moment.  Document properties allows you to save things like what version of the application you saved from and who the document author was.  This option is tied to the properties that you can set when you do a Save As and click on Properties from the Tools menu. The other option here is called “Document structure tags for accessibility”.

Tags is a term used more by PDF than by XPS – in XPS we don’t save tags per se, but instead simply mark document content as particular structure types.  Whether we talk about structure types or tags, the option here is the same:  it adds additional information to you PDF or XPS file that can be used by an assistive technology – such as a screen reader or magnifier – to provide information to users who need additional information beyond what is represented on the screen.  For instance, a blind user can’t look at this blog post and see that I have headers for each division of subject.  So a blind user might use a screen reader to understand that I’m giving some kind of emphasis to certain text.  In turn, that screen reader can query an XPS or PDF file for more information on the structure of the document.  If you have this option turned on when you save as PDF or XPS, which is the default, the information is added to your file and can really help with communication with users who have various disabilities or limitations.  It’s considered a best practice to have this setting on for all files.  The quality of the structure information or the tags, however, is also dependent on how you author your documents.  Use things like styles for headings, automatic formatting for bullets and numbering, alternative text on images, and table formatting to create the best possible accessibility information in all your documents.

The other set of options that is shared among all applications is dependent on whether you choose to save as PDF or as XPS.  For XPS, the difference is simply that there is only one option in Word or PowerPoint (the same is also true for Excel); in Publisher there are no shared XPS options.  The one option controls whether you preserve any rights protection on your original Word or PowerPoint file.  Some of the Office 2007 applications use the same rights management conventions as the XPS viewers available from Microsoft.  The same is not true for PDF at this time, so the option is not available there.
XPS Permissions option

For PDF, there are two additional options:  "ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)" and "Bitmap text when fonts may not be embedded."  The second of these is used primarily when you have a font that has a restricted license.  When the license is open on a font, the whole font is stored with the document.  If the license is more restricted, the font is subset and only those characters used in the document are stored with it.  The most restricted licenses don't allow even that.  So the programs either substitute a different font, or, if this check box is marked, use a bitmap representation of the text instead of the text itself.  You want to use this setting sparingly - it can cause your files to become huge if all the text has to be bitmapped.

The first option allows you to save files that are compliant with the PDF/A standard.  PDF/A or PDF for Archiving is a standard that prescribes certain attributes with which a file must comply in order to be preserved and stored long term.  PDF/A requires tagging for accessibility, which is why that option is always on if this check box is checked.  One of the most visible differences for PDF/A as opposed to plain PDF is that images may not use transparency.  So you can lose parts of images, or, in the case of text effects in PowerPoint, the fancy looking text gets flattened into an image and may not look like it did originally.  All Office 2007 apps that output PDF can save files compliant with the PDF/A standard.  All of the applications except InfoPath and OneNote save to PDF/A-1a, which is the strictest standard.  InfoPath and OneNote save to PDF/A-1b.  The main difference is that neither InfoPath or OneNote can currently output tagged PDF, so they do not meet the accessibility requirements of the most strict flavor of this standard.

One other shared item to note is not in the options dialog at all.  It’s in the Save as PDF or Save as XPS dialog for most applications.  Remember the output intent I mentioned as the first Publisher-specific options available? For other applications where it’s possible to optimize fonts, images, or both, these intents are available right from the Save as dialog. 

I hope that this quick visit through the PDF and XPS options dialogs has either shown you a new set of features you didn’t know existed, or given you some options to optimize your PDF and XPS files.  I would love to hear more about your experiences with saving to PDF or XPS (or both) from Office 2007.  If you have issues, questions, or wishes, add them to the comments and I’ll address as many as possible.

Cherie Ekholm
Senior Test Lead, Microsoft Office Publisher

About the blog contributor:  Cherie is a nearly 19-year veteran of the Microsoft Corporation.  Prior to joining the Publisher team, she worked as a Test Engineer and Test Lead in the International, Word, and Natural Languages groups.  She currently coordinates the testing of PDF and XPS across the Office applications in addition to her other testing and management duties.  Cherie is also a member of the AIIM Standards Board, and the ISO 32000 (PDF Reference), and PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) standards committees.

Comments (2)
  1. Lesley says:

    Have windows XP. When I try to save a word document as a pdf file, it comes out garbled in a notepad document.

    Please advise.


  2. Jo-Anne says:

    When I select print I’m asked to save as xps. How do I change it back to regular printing setup?


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