XPS, the PDF alternative, seems to be almost dead in the water.

That said, Windows 7 offers a built-in XPS printer and viewer. I believe Vista also offers a built-in printer.

XPS seems lighter than PDF, perhaps it only appears so because of Adobe's bloated reader, but that's for another discussion.

Is it worth it to begin encoding in XPS instead of PDF? Will Vista or above be able to read it without problems? What should I look out for?

  • 8
    XML is bloat by definition. Nov 20, 2009 at 19:04
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    @NSD I disagree. The Office 07 XML-based file formats (docx, xlsx, pptx) are about half the size of their legacy file formats (doc, xls, ppt). I can guarantee this as I had to convert one of my 07 documents to 03 and the resulting file was over twice the size. Nov 20, 2009 at 19:15
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    The only thing that proves is that the legacy formats were poorly designed to begin with. Nov 20, 2009 at 19:20
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    @Redandwhite: The new formats are smaller because they are zip compressed. But I do like the smaller sizes.
    – Adam Ryan
    Nov 23, 2009 at 2:59
  • I found that XPS will save a page all messed up on WinXP. It would be a fantastic tool, if it worked.
    – TheTechGuy
    Mar 14, 2012 at 17:17

5 Answers 5


As you mentioned, XPS does seem dead. Part of its lack of traction might be that it requires you to either set your default web browser to Internet Explorer (at least, on Windows XP), or open the XPS file manually in IE (rather than double-clicking it to open).

I'm not sure about Vista and 7, but XPS is annoying on XP if your default web browser is set to something other than Internet Explorer. The XPS viewer opens, but apparently it uses your web browser to do the rendering. On a computer configured with Firefox or Opera as the default, it just causes the default browser to prompt you to open or save the file. If you click Open, it again tries to open it in XPS Viewer, then causes the default browser to prompt you to Open or Save the file (again).

A long time ago I also started saving files in MDI (Microsoft Document Imaging) format. It was a pretty handy format for scanning documents back before there were so many free utilities that let you scan directly to a PDF. I think I can still open them if I install the document scanning component of MS Office, but MDI seems to have been superseded by XPS. If you want to able to open your files in the future, or if you want other people to be able to open them, you're probably best off using PDF.

I've used most of the common PDF printers available, but so far the best one for Windows seems to be PDFill PDF Tools Free. Its included PDF printer allows you to configure a default directory (as well as other default settings). I use it with DirectFolders to quickly find the appropriate directory for saving the PDF file.

Microsoft also has a plugin for Office 2007 that adds a menu item to save (or "publish") to PDF and XPS. It's probably the most convenient way to save Office files in PDF format, but the Microsoft-generated PDF files are always several times larger than the ones created by PDF printers. I assume it's because they're including some extra metadata or they're properly handling document links embedded in within the files.

  • thanks for the awesome software recommendation. Office creates larger PDFs than printers because (as you say) it preserves metadata and in-document links. PDF printers just see raw output. Nov 20, 2009 at 19:17

XPS will never have the support PDF has, but it is much easier to program against. You just create the XML how you want it (deciphering the standard is an exercise left to the reader), and then zip the directory structure up.


it will get traction because of the millions of .Net programmers moving to WPF, and it's built-in support for writing XPS.

  • 4
    6 years later and your prediction still isn't true :p
    – jiggunjer
    Jan 8, 2016 at 1:56
  • 2
    8 years later and your prediction still ins't true xD Apr 25, 2018 at 5:05
  • 1
    14 years later and your prediction still isn't true =)
    – cachius
    Sep 26, 2023 at 7:51

I'm not aware of any actual advantage to XPS, and it's less compatible. Why would it get any traction at all? If you don't like Adobe Reader, use xpdf or some other free alternative.

  • I don't actually mind PDF as a format, just checking in on any alternatives. Thanks Nov 20, 2009 at 17:54

If you are running Peachtree accounting 2003 thru 2007 and beyond then XPS is the way you would "print" electronic invoices and reports on your xp computer. You use a USB flash to transfer these XPS documents to your "on line computer" (or you could have the two computers networked together). Then you convert the documents to PDF using the many free online converters. For Peachtree fanatics (like me) it's worth it in order to keep using the best low-cost accounting software ever made. Of course you could also use your XP machine and compatible printer to simply print hard copies of Peachtree XPS documents if you wanted to.

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