Tuesday 3 February 2009

XPS Viewing - Harder than it should be

I am a little afraid to post what my thinking here. I don't want to appear that I whinging or complaining. It's just that I thought that Microsoft has gone to a lot  effort to make something open, really accessible and the result is a surprisingly constrained experience.


I am referring to the XPS (the Microsoft PDF format killer) viewing experience on Windows Vista (and Windows 7).  The Microsoft XPS format is built into Office 2007 (so you save/edit/create XPS files) and there is a viewer is built into Vista. 


For more marketing information on the XPS format, you can refer to the Microsoft link here: https://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/xps.aspx



And, you can download the XPS Essentials Pack here:  http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/xps/viewxps.mspx


And probably, more importantly here is the link for the XPS Office 2007 pack: https://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=4d951911-3e7e-4ae6-b059-a2e79ed87041&DisplayLang=en


Again.... I feel that I am complaining here... And I may deserve all the difficulty that I have experienced. But, and, ... I hate to admit it... I don't use Internet Explorer... Ever!


So, by default (on my numerous real and virtual machines ) I use Safari, Firefox (a lot) and Chrome. The whole idea of using XPS formatted documents on Vista is that a simple double click and you can read the document in your browser (and supposedly rather quickly). This is not the case when you use any other the other browsers (Google, Firefox, Opera, Safari) as the extension handlers for these applications merely download the app (again) and again.


I knew that the XPS format  was built into Vista - and I hate to admit, I was completely stumped when I clicked on the XPS file - and nothing happened. I took me 10 minutes to realize that my default browser settings were "wrong" (according to M$)


So, Vista has been around for a while, and so has Firefox and it appears that it was only last week (Jan 27th, 2009) that there is now a Firefox  Plug-in to handle the XPS format.  You can find the Firefox and Safari XPS Plug-ins here: http://www.pagemarktechnology.com/home/downloads.html


OK - so, no Google Chrome support (no big deal). That said, here is something that surprised me. To load view an XPS file in Internet Explorer 7,  you simply drag a file from your local file system and drop it onto the IE window - in a few seconds, your document will appear. However, If you are already viewing  a XPS file in Internet Explorer 7  - you can't do this - you have to open a new tab/window. Weird.

Some of you may comment that this is not a standard application compatiblity issue - you may be right... but "default settings" can be a real party pooper for getting applications to work well. So, at a stretch I think this could still be considered an application compatiblity issue. :)

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