XPS (XML Paper Specification) which previously codenamed “Metro”, is a document storage and viewing specification developed by Microsoft which defined formats and rules for distributing, archiving, rendering, and processing XPS documents. XPS format intends to compete with Adobe PDF format as both is displaying paginated, fixed-layout format electronic paper documents in page-by-page view of the document’s content as it would be printed.

Since Windows Vista, including Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, or later and their server equivalent, all Windows OS has built-in integrated Microsoft XPS Document Viewer and XPS Document Writer. And likewise for Microsoft Office productivity suite. Since Microsoft Office 2007 (requires Save as XPS plugin), including Office 2010, Office 2013, Office 2013 or later, all Office apps allows user to create and save as XPS files within Office application. However, if you’re using Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, you to download and install the free XPS Viewer and XPS Writer.

In Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, to add in the capability to open to view and create XPS documents, you can either download Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 or Microsoft XML Paper Specification Essentials Pack .

XPS document viewing and generation capabilities are included in Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0. With .NET Framework 3.0, the XPS files will open within Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher.

Meanwhile Microsoft XPS Essentials Pack contains the XML Paper Specification (XPS) Viewer to read and index XPS Documents, and the Microsoft XPS Document Writer to output files to the XPS Document format, plus providers to enable the iPreview and iFilter capabilities found in many Windows applications. Windows shell handlers are also included to enable thumbnail views and file properties for XPS Documents. When you select this Essentials Pack option, XPS documents will open in standalone viewer.

Microsoft XPS Document Writer is a print-to-file converter that allows you to create or generate a XPS documents from virtually any Windows applications by printing a file, page, webpage, documents, text and etc to the XPS Document Writer as how you print to a printer. It comes by default with both download package.

Other than Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 with latest service pack, Windows 2000 with latest service pack is also supported by Microsoft XPS Essential Pack 1.0 to enable the viewing and creation ability of XPS documents.

Microsoft XPS Document Writer requires Microsoft Core XML Services 6.0 (if you download .NET 3.0 Framework, this is not needed) to be installed on your system and Windows Media Photo support in the Microsoft Essentials Viewer requires that the Windows Imaging Codecs update package be installed on your system, which is part of .NET Framework 3.0.