XPS, or the XML Paper Specification, is Microsoft's new electronic paper format for exchanging documents in their final forms.
Office "12" will support a native Save as XPS feature in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, OneNote and InfoPath.
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.
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 would I want to use XPS?
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. 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
How do I view an XPS document?
With an XPS Viewer, of course. You likely don't have one of these yet, 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.
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.
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.