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Oct 11, 2011

Windows 8 OpenXPS, the Latest PDF Killer

Only time will tell whether OpenXPS will succeed where the plain vanilla XPS document format has failed, namely to erode the domination of Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF). 

The Open XML Paper Specification, or OpenXPS for short, is a new document file format supported in Windows 8 Developer Preview Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3). 

I think it’s rather safe to assume that the RTM Build of Windows 8, or whatever it will be called after the platform goes gold, will also play nice by default with OpenXPS. 

“OpenXPS is the XML Paper Specification document format based on the European Carton Makers Association (ECMA) standard specification. This specification, “ECMA 388 – Open XML Paper Specification,” was published in June 2009,” Microsoft reveals. 

Long story short, at the core, XPS and OpenXPS share the same goal, to rival the PDF ISO standard, and offer an alternative to formatting digital content in a manner that replicates analog paper, simplifying tasks such as printing. 

PDF was initially introduced in 1993, and as an ISO standard it’s now ubiquitous. Even Microsoft uses PDF, perhaps to a larger scale than its very own XPS. 

The Redmond company introduced XPS in 2006, and supported it with Windows Vista and then with Windows 7. 

Despite widespread support through Windows, XPS has failed to really gain traction with end users, and years after the debut of the XML Paper Specification, PDF is still the incontestable king. 

Now Microsoft appears to be ready to give it another shot, supporting OpenXPS with Windows 8. 

“As an international standard, OpenXPS has several ecosystem advantages, compared to Microsoft XPS. First, there are a number of government agencies that require standardized document formats for internal use, and that requirement has been a barrier to the adoption of MSXPS in some cases. OpenXPS removes this barrier to adoption,” the software giant said. 

“Additionally, Microsoft has received feedback from hardware and software developers requesting a process that prevents frequent revisions and changes to the MSXPS format to prevent the frequent rewriting of their applications and drivers to match the arbitrary changes. OpenXPS is an international standard with a formalized change processes and a wide publication of revisions.”

Users should not hurry up and say goodbye for good to XPS, since the original XML Paper Specification continues to be supported in Windows 8. “Microsoft supports OpenXPS side-by-side with existing Microsoft XPS in Windows Developer Preview, including API, driver, and viewer support,” the Redmond company said. 

Remember the last time when you saved a document with an .xps extension and sent it to one of your co-workers/friends? Yes, me neither. And remember the last time when you received an XPS file? Well, I think I made my point.


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