Save as XPS in Office “12”

Recently, I have had a number of questions on this and I am happy to confirm that Office “12” will support a native Save as XPS feature in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, OneNote and InfoPath. This, of course, raises a whole bunch of additional questions for me to answer:

-          What’s XPS?

-          Why would I want to use XPS?

-          Isn’t Windows already doing this?

-          How does this relate to the Save as PDF feature?

-          How do I view an XPS document?

I’ll take these in order, but first, a picture (from a current build of Word):

What is XPS?

XPS, or the XML Paper Specification, is Microsoft’s new electronic paper format for exchanging documents in their final forms. This Office feature provides a one-way export from Office client applications to an application- and platform-independent, paginated format. More information on XPS is available on Andy Simonds’ blog and at

Unlike the Office Open XML Formats, XPS does not attempt to capture the full structured richness of an Office document. As an electronic paper format, it is all about a high fidelity representation of the output only. Because of this, creation of an XPS document from Office is a one-way, export operation.

Why ?

XPS is an electronic paper format built around the same Open Packaging Conventions document structure as the new Office file formats. This means a Zip container and XML content. (Brian Jones writes lots on Office’s use of the Open Packaging Conventions.) As such it plays well with other technologies like Microsoft Information Rights Management (IRM) and is open to developers to read and write, using APIs in the Windows Presentation Foundation or any other tools capable of working with XML and Zip. This openness makes XPS convenient for a range of scenarios in which it is useful to inspect or modify the contents of the “paper” programmatically.

How does this relate to the XPS print driver?

The Windows Digital Documents team is delivering a print driver with Windows Presentation Foundation that will enable all applications that can print to create XPS files. The support for XPS output in Office “12” goes beyond what is typically passed to a printer, including the supporting information to enable, for example, working hyperlinks, searching, efficient representation of transparency and gradients, accessible documents, and document rights when the source document has restricted IRM rights.

So Office is supporting two electronic paper output formats?

Yes. We think choice is a good thing.

How do I view an XPS document?

With an XPS Viewer, of course. You likely don’t have one of these yet, (unless you have the Windows Presentation Foundation September CTP) but Microsoft is committed to delivering viewers for Windows Vista and downlevel versions of Windows, with Windows Presentation Foundation, and directly or through partners, for a range of other platforms. Of course, if you don’t like any of these viewers, the format is open and documented and you could always write your own.

Watch this space. I’ll be writing more here about XPS, and Office electronic paper output in general, in coming weeks.

Comments (35)

  1. Ian Ringrose says:

    Can I save a document in “Office XML” AND XPS in the same file. So that it can be read on any XP+ machine, but can still be edited in office? It would be great if this was the default save format.

  2. Jeff Bell says:

    Ian – It all depends on what you mean by "can". For end-users, this is not something we are currently exposing. The better solution for most end-users is to install the converters on their pre-Office "12" machines to be able to open (and edit) these new-format files. Developers on top of Office, of course, have many more options.

    At the technology level, the new Office XML formats allow other data, such as an XPS package to be included within the file. The Save as XPS feature is exposed through the Office object model, so you could, with a little code, generate the XPS (or PDF, for that matter) representation of a document and include it (more code) in the .docx or other roundtrippable file.

    The resulting file wouldn’t actually be an XPS file, and so likely wouldn’t be recognized by the viewer, so you would also need some code on the reading side to extract the fixed format representation.

    You would also want to think about what should happen when the document is edited. Does that delete or invalidate the fixed format representation?

    If you do have great end-user scenarios that would be enabled by streamlining this dual-stream story, I would love to hear more. I can’t promise anything, but this is the intersection of a couple of new areas, so feedback is particularly useful.

  3. Why isn’t native PDF Export also available in Office Project 12?

  4. PatriotB says:

    "With an XPS Viewer, of course. You likely don’t have one of these yet, (unless you have the Windows Presentation Foundation September CTP)"

    Interestingly, the October CTP of Vista (5231) doesn’t include WinFX at all, but can still view XPS documents via the Reach Viewer program…

  5. What happens to people who aren’t programmers and forced to wait on !Microsoft to provide a viewer for their platform to view these documents. Adobe had cross platform viewers from day one for PDF.

    What happens on other platforms if Rights Management is used in the XPS file? Right now, IRM == Windows only viewing.

    I’m really not seeing how this is anything other than a windows only trick.

  6. SlashDotJunkie says:

    John C. Welch: "Adobe had cross platform viewers from day one for PDF."

    True enough, except they were not free and only existed for Microsoft and Apple operating systems:

    More to the point, XPS is supposed to take away the everlasting nightmare of printer settings on Windows platform, not on Mac or Linux, is it not? And Office "12" will export to both XPS and PDF, so what’s your point exactly?

  7. Gordon says:

    As probably 99% of computer users already HAVE Adobe Acrobat reader, what is the point of introducing another "similar" format, other than the start of another Microsoft "embrace extend and extinguish" campaign against Adobe?

  8. Slash, the point you neatly missed is that there were PDF viewers on MORE than just one platform from day one. That’s evidently not going to be the case with XPS.

    If you’re on Linux/OS X and you get an IRM’d XPS document, what are you going to be able to do with it? Right now, the answer is "Stare at the pretty icon. Isn’t it pretty? It’s a very nice icon." However, that won’t let you actually

    The reason printer settings are a nightmare on Windows has *nothing* to do with the output format, and everything to do with the "Dyson in a black hole" suck that is the Windows UI in this, and many other areas. Time spent making the printer settings UI easy to use will have *far* more beneficial effects here than a new file format, and probably take less time to implement.

    But then, MS would possibly be not losing still more focus by sticking its fingers in yet another pie that doesn’t need it.

  9. Hi, can you, on behalf of Microsoft and the MBU, confirm that the XSP format and technologies will be part of Microsoft Office 12 for Mac OS X?

  10. Yours Truly says:

    Okay, so is there any reason to use XPS besides your beastly IRM system? Keeping in mind that PDF is already an open standard that works on all platforms.

  11. Bret C says:

    Go Linux,,, forget these guys,,,,,what a joke.

  12. James says:

    Ok, let me get this straight. It’s currently Windows only, controled by Microsoft, and provides absolutely no benefit over PDF. Oh, and it’s heavily integrated with Vista. Hmmm…

    No thanks.

  13. LOFTMAN says:

    aaahhh I get it. MS is re-inventing the wheel, except its oval instead of round. But thats ok, cause next will be an axle for oval wheels…

    an excellent ‘new’ format, almost as good as PDF (cough cough) usable only in windows…ho hum…lets all run out and buy vista, then office 12, then wait for the patches, then…then…

  14. Ian Ringrose says:

    The “great end-user scenarios” is ANY document produced by ANY application can be viewed on ANY XP+ computer. Office is just the first step, if you did it for office other people will start to copy you. I do not wish to have to installer a “viewer” (free or otherwise) for every file format that someone may ever put on a website or email to me.

    To be usefull this would have to be the default behavour when ever a file is saved. (End users can not understand that other peole may not have the same software installed.)

    Havng the XPS in every doucment files, would also enable to shell to do great “preview icons” for all docuents, even if the software that understand that doucment format is on installed on the machine.

    The other day I wished to look at the details for a planning appllcaion that was on my local government’s web site, I first had to installed the AutoCad veiwer (I consider installing any software on my PC to be a greate risk so would rather not have to do so.). It could so so match better if the AutoCad file included the doument in XPS format, so I could just view it.

  15. The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) has determined the US construction industry operates at a $15 billion annual loss.

    A single US CAD vendor holds a monopoly position in the US construction markets crippling those markets by arguably developing the industry’s best drafting feature sets into their software while on the other hand arguably obstructing, hindering, or preventing the use of its products in a manner supportive of meaningful and progressive web development solutions critically important to American companies who once were able to genuinely compete on the basis of their most valuable asset: American ingenuity.

    American know-how. You know? The stuff that made America great?

    Can America continue to compete when a single software vendor cripples its products to subversively obstruct, hinder, or prevent tens of thousands of US companies trying to use CAD and industrialized information technologies to interact with the emerging global markets which depend on the unhindered use of the Internet?

    Who can do so when the customer’s own drawn assets are subversively controlled by a software vendor whose products were used to create them?

    Who can do so when a single monopoly vendor whose software development licensing claims it to be a license violation should others develop any software which functions with the company’s products that the company can arbitrarily deem competitive and thus claim to be in violation of the company’s software development licensing?

    American companies that use CAD and the US construction industry itself function as one of the nation’s fundamental economies. These companies are being undermined and gutted by the actions of a single subversive and corrupt software vendor’s policies.

    These contentions are substantiated by the facts. Simply read the NIST reports as well as many other reports and findings which clearly show the handwriting on the walls of that which once was; an industrious nation being undermined and whittled down to near nothingness by those seeking global markets at the expense of the American companies which made most of it possible in the first place.

    And who if anyone even dares consider the projected estimation of many more billions of dollars of annual losses that ripple throughout the nation’s economies and other markets which depend on those markets crippled by the sordid greed of a single vendor who has refused to develop a method to enjoy its valued success without undermining and destroying the success of its own customers in the process?

    XPS, Office System applications, and Microsoft’s software development APIs in general must come to the forefront of innovation by supporting large formats used for CAD enabling CAD to become ‘webified’ without the unneccessary spectre of crippleware and golden handcuffs imposed by a single vendor.

    Free CAD file format viewers which support markup are direly needed.

    Support for sheet sizes up to 36"x42" for example is critically imperative as are unique rights management applications supporting the management of our nation’s industrialized information assets.

    The ability to securely move documents around the globe while retaining interactivity within the documents themselves has become critically important. About ten years ago I might add.

    That is why I welcome XPS and the direction Office 12 is headed as this direction finally offers broader alternatives supportive of the ingeneous ideations of those who ‘see’ the broader possibilities which can result simply on the basis of good ol’ American know-how.

    So I ask you all. Which shall prevail? The vision of Bill Gates or the vision of Carol Bartz?

  16. Anonymous says:

    XPS really stands for "XML PostScript", doesn’t it?

  17. Pratik Patel says:

    You made a brief mention of "accessibility" in your post. What specific provisions are being considered for access to the final document structure for those individuals using assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnification systems. The high-fedility paper format means easy access for those individuals who are able to perceive such high fedility information. But for those individuals who have no means of accessing such information this particular format–or at least its description–appears to suggest just access to the page text without having any acess to its layout, formatting, structure etc. the wide-spread adoption of this format may mean serious accessibility challenges for individuals who may benefit from electronic information the most. A related question to to the format is what provisions are being considered and implemented with the XPS viewer?

  18. What’s the point of you "Linux rules"-guys? I am using both Windows and Linux Workstations, same with servers – and I hate comments like "Go Linux, get away from M$"…

    However, introducing XPS Microsoft tries to create a new, easy and XML (instead of complex PostScript) based format.

    Isn’t that allowed? Why was StarOffice created? To create an alternative product to Office… Why was Linux invented? To create an alternative OS to UNIX…

    Now, Microsoft invented XPS to create an alternative document format, that will be accessible from more platforms than Windows (see article, or did I missunderstand it?).

    So no reason to worry, they also did include a "Save to PDF"-function and I totally agree with Jeff to give users the choice.

    XPS is not on the big market yet, so no point for saying "PDF had a viewer from day one" – we are still before day one, I guess.

    I’m not Mr. Bell’s advocate 😉 but I think we should see the introduction of XPS far more objectivly.

  19. Michael,

    As it currently stands, XPS is a limiting technology. Without further information from MS, based only on what they have said, it is a Windows – only tech, unless someone else writes viewers for other platforms….<i>"but Microsoft is committed to delivering viewers for Windows Vista and downlevel versions of Windows, with Windows Presentation Foundation, and directly or through partners, for a range of other platforms. Of course, if you don’t like any of these viewers, the format is open and documented and you could always write your own."</i>…their words, not mine.

    How will third parties be able to deal with IRM. From what I’ve seen, IRM *requires* an Active Directory infrastructure. How do you write an IRM – compatible XPS viewer for !Windows that will work regardless of infrastructure? Will this even be possible? We don’t know, but to date, the *second* you implement IRM, every document you touch with it becomes Windows Only. There’s not even a viewer for anything other than Windows. So, based on the only empirical data we have, XPS + IRM =="open" format that only works on Windows. Again, a limiting technology

    Neither postscript or PDF was ever a limiting technology. Both have always worked correctly on any platform you cared to use them on. In fact, right now, you can get better browser plugins from third parties for PDF than Adobe provides. Adobe provides a platform neutral scripting implementation, (javascript) for Acrobat and PDF that is not crippled because it’s not on Windows.

    I also fail to see how XML is magically less complicated than PDF if you have the same capabilities in each. If you look at what you can do with PDF, it’s really complex, hence PDF as a format is complex. Any XML document with the same feature set is going to be just as complex. Simple file format, rich feature set…you can’t have both.

    If Microsoft is going to make XPS as "the next big output document format" then they are going to have to deal with all the questions in a better way than their normal…"It’s only a beta" or "That requires Windows".

  20. John Mutchler says:

    Please, Linux crybabies, find some Linux blogs to moisten…

    You can’t look at a single MS product and see the big picture of product interplay. PDF is great and PDF sometimes sucks. Thanks for a choice, MS.

  21. Beta 1 of &quot;OneNote 12&quot; (and &quot;Office12&quot;) is now available for download for those people who are signed…

  22. testuser123 says:

    Does anyone know if there is a way to map (convert) an XPS document into an Image document ? for example convert a one page PDF document to an XPS document to then convert into a JPEG document ?

    Or am i asking for too much ?

  23. Jeff Bell says:

    testuser123 – re: converting XPS to an image

    Not sure whether you are wanting to do this conversion as an end-user or in code? What you describe is what every viewer or printer which consumes XPS will do, so it certainly can be done in code. I don’t know of a handy end-user way to do this yet. Best resource for this sort of question is the XPS team’s blog at

  24. akgakg says:

    Well I downloaded "WindowsVistaProductGuide" from a site. its in xps format. the file size is 48MB. I converted it to PDF, its file size was 7MB. I think PDF is better as its easily portable. Long way to go for XPS.

  25. David says:

    I think most here fail to recognize the value of IRM.

    In today’s world, how do I share a document with people in my company while still ensuring that the document stays private?  I can’t email them a PDF file– they could turn around and email that file to some news reporter.  Ok, I’ll block it at the mailserver. What about burning the file to CD-R or copying it to USB drive of memory card?  I suppose I could remove the CD-R drives and shut down those ports.  Even still, someone could print that document and hand-carry it out of the building.

    And what if I want to share that document only with one department– say Financials– without it being leaked even within the company?  

    Using PDF and Adobe’s offerings, there’s no way to do this.  On the otherhand, XPS coupled with IRM provides complete control over that document.  I can create an XPS file that is only viewable online (ie, can’t be printed) and only by C-level officers.  Email to whomever you’d like, but they won’t be able to open it.  In Vista, you won’t even be able to do screen captures of the document, preventing the information from being siphoned off into image files.

    If that isn’t something you or your company are interested in, then there may not be a reason to switch from PDF to XPS.  Even if you aren’t interested in it, I think any rational person will realize that there is clearly a market here that Adobe doesn’t address.  Why are so many people bashing Microsoft for recognizing a need and adding features that addresses that need?

  26. Patrick says:

    David, I believe the issue is the implementation of IRM.

    To what I understand, it seems that the mechanisms for IRM is not open, making it exclusive to Windows. Thus, any XPS document containing such restrictions would be restricted to Windows. Since many corporations will probably find a use for this feature (even for simple documents like reference manuals, for preventing edition), it *might* lock the format to the platform from the company we love to hate. It would be quite a shame, since the format itself looks promising.

    To me, it seems to be a replay of the situation with the .NET framework… It was quite promising, Microsoft promoted it as being cross-platform… Yet, in reality, only Windows got a complete implementation. While you might not care, it’s the kind of thing people who need to work on multiple platforms (like me) are frowning.

  27. Lewis says:

    So if I actually need XML (for import into an existing program) then I’m screwed by any new versions of Microsoft programs, right? What sort of moron removes features that make the sortware compatibile with other programs?

  28. Chris says:

    "including the supporting information to enable, for example, working hyperlinks"

    is that option available in the beta?

    if so, I could not find it, and would like to be pointed in the right direction

  29. Jeff Bell says:

    Lewis – not sure whether the XML you are referring to here is Office Open XML or XPS. The former is not being removed, and in fact, these formats are the defaults in the Office 2007 applications that support them. This is a rich, full-fidelity, XML representation of an Office document.

    XPS is an XML reprentation of paginated output, and while it does not contain as much information as the roundtrippable XML document formats, it may still be appropriate for importing into the other program you mention. The capability to export from Office 2007 to XPS will be available as a download at no extra cost.

    Chris – the reason you are not seeing an option to enable hyperlinks in Office Beta 2 is that we always export these. If the source document contains hyperlinks you should see these in the emitted XPS.

    Jeff Bell

  30. blessed to bless says:

    Key Truth : Whaytever you give will be given back to uou

  31. I seem to have become a top search engine result for queries for a Microsoft Publisher Viewer. The bad…

  32. Here’s one for my list of favorite Office 2007 features (and one that’s long overdue, IMHO). The Office

  33. Beta 1 of "OneNote 12" (and "Office12") is now available for download for those people who are signed

  34. smehaffie says:

    I guess the Linux programmers still need to learn to read.  MS is committed to provider viewers for other platforms "directly or through partners, for a range of other platforms. Of course, if you don’t like any of these viewers, the format is open and documented and you could always write your own."

    Either they cannot read or they are not competent Linux programmers that can write their own viewer.  They need everything handed to them on a silver plater and like to spend there time whining about how evil MS.  Just shut up and write a viewer for XPS on Linux.  I’m sure you can get an open source project started to do this, since all Linux supporters only use open-source programs.

    Get some cheese to go with the "whine" and go complain to someone who cares about your holy war with MS.  Also, until Linux holds a majority of desktop market, then shut up about Linus being so superior.  If is was that good then why aren’t more people using it (other than manly techies)?

  35. works guo says:

    XPS 或说是 XML Paper Specification,是微软最新为显示最终窗口中的交流的电子文档格式.这个Office新特性提供一些方式如从Office客户端应用程序输出到一个应用程序或独立平台的有标页数格式的文档,更多内容可以看Andy Simonds’ blog (或(http: //

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