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The Ever-Changing PDF Picture

(March 2008) posted on Thu Mar 06, 2008

What's new in PDF workflow, and how XPS might change all that.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Stephen Beals

The ability of Microsoft’s XPS to compete with Adobe PDF is not yet clear. Litigation with the European Union has caused Microsoft to tread softly and offer the format as an open standard. If that approach gets through all of the legal wrangling, XPS, which is native to Vista much like PDF is native to Mac OS X, might become available on any platform, including Linux and OS X. If the format is royalty-free, there may be a rush by third-party developers to support the format. Microsoft could take an approach like Adobe’s and keep specification itself "open" but also under their own control.

In September of last year, NiXPS ( announced a product called NiXPS 1.5, which offers Mac users the ability to view XPS files. It includes a range of XPS editing and rendering capabilities and is designed to turn XPS into a fully interchangeable document format. Its editing capabilities enable the use of XPS in professional-document workflows, offering the ability to add and extract pages or merge entire documents. NiXPS also features text-editing capabilities such as search-and-replace and font replacement. Version 1.5 also opens up XPS by adding viewing capabilities on the Mac and the ability to export XPS to PDF. "As an open specification based on XML, we see a lot of potential in XPS both as a document format and a printing technology," says Nick De Roeck, managing director of NiXPS. "Up until now the practical tools to truly enable XPS to be a success were missing."

Many companies, including Canon, HP, and Xerox, have already announced support for XPS in their applications, scanners, and printers. XPS is considered by some as a PDF competitor, but Kelly doesn’t anticipate XPS infringing on PDF’s dominance in the graphic-arts and publishing industries. "The current XPS viewer is very basic and can’t be extended with plug-ins," he explains. "Key features-including editing, preflight, workflow products, and commenting-do not yet exist.

"The two areas where XPS will make an impact are document sharing between Windows users, and on-demand and short-run digital printing of manuals, reports, and other documents," Kelly adds. The primary motivation for using XPS will surely be cost. XPS is "free," while installing Acrobat on every employee’s computer can be a significant investment.