The eXtensible Paper Specification (XPS) file format is a page description language that describes the structure and content of a document, including its layout and appearance. Developed by Microsoft, it is similar to the PDF format but is based on XML, a standard used for data representation and transfer on the web. Introduced with Windows Vista in 2006, the XPS format was created as an alternative to Adobe's PDF, with an aim to offer better integration with Windows operating systems and provide a consistent document experience across multiple applications.
How XPS Works
XPS files encapsulate information related to layout, formatting, and other attributes of a document. They are created by an XPS printer driver that virtually prints the document, preserving the layout and graphics in a fixed document form. Unlike PDF, XPS is heavily tied to the Windows Graphic Subsystem (also known as Avalon), and the files are rendered using the XML Paper Specification; hence, they maintain high fidelity to the original document.
Software Utilizing XPS
Microsoft provides native support for XPS files through various applications such as Microsoft Office, the XPS Viewer, and the Microsoft Print to XPS feature included in Windows operating systems. Other third-party software that can open and view XPS documents includes Nuance PDF Reader, XPS Annotator, and XPS Viewer EP.
Alternatives to XPS
Despite the introduction of XPS, PDF remains the industry standard for portable documents due to its widespread adoption and compatibility across different platforms. Other alternatives such as PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF) cater to similar needs with varying features. PostScript is a page description language used primarily in desktop publishing, whereas PDF offers comprehensive features for document exchange, including multimedia integration, annotations, and encryption.
XPS files stand out for their ability to preserve document fidelity, especially in a Windows environment. However, their reliance on Microsoft technologies means they are less universal compared to PDFs. As the tech ecosystem continues to evolve, the choice between XPS and other document formats will depend on user requirements and the specific functionalities desired in a portable document format.