Friday, January 12, 2007

DWF/XPS Clarification and Obfuscation

With all the posting about DWF support in Microsoft Windows Vista - I feel like I have to jump in and attempt clarification (because so many blogs and news reports STILL have it wrong, I think).

Here's my take on it.

  • Microsoft developed the XPS specification as a PDF-killer... a digital paper spec

  • Microsoft is providing an XPS viewer built-into Vista, and will provide it as a download in Windows XP, as part of .NET 3.0 runtime, etc

  • Autodesk, through their partnership with Microsoft, has re-engineered the DWF format specification somewhat in order to make it compatible with the XPS spec - ultimately, DWF implementing XPS. This format is known either as "DWF 7.0" (its version) or as "DWFX" (its new file extension).

  • I presume (I have no knowledge of this) that the next version of Autodesk products will support the creation of this new format.

  • Autodesk is also updating the free DWF toolkit to allow other applications which read/write DWF to take advantage of this.

There - was that so hard? (Scott S, please jump in here if I've STILL gotten something wrong here).

Yes, it is somewhat of a big deal. No, it will probably not be a really big deal for another year or two when the number of people who have deployed Autodesk 2008 products and either Vista or the XPS viewer is substantial - the traditional network effect wherein the value is based on the number of people who can EASILY interact.


michaelejahn said...

You comment; Microsoft developed the XPS specification as a PDF-killer... a digital paper spec"

I disagree entirely. This would be like saying Adobe developed PDF to be a fax killer. Developers do not spend any a moment building things in a vacume - they normally build something to solve a problem. One of the problems MicroSoft had was that people need to reliable exchange Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents with people who do not happen to have Word, PowerPoint and Excel. They needed to build something that would work in such a way that could be searchable and easy to implement. As a developer, creating PDF files is not very simple compared to creating XML files. XPS 1.0 falls far short of what PDF 1.0 did 13 years ago, so it is hardly a threat - And why a CAD person would care about XPS is beyond me - DWF is far superior than PDF file in that space - what value added would XPS bring to a CAD file exchange ?

Matt Mason said...


You raise a couple of interesting points, and perhaps further questions as much as anything... I agree that developers build something to solve a problem - it's just not clear to me what problem Microsoft was solving with XPS that PDF didn't already solve decently (although I'm sure they have a list of deficiencies it addresses - just as DWF is technically superior to PDF in its space).

Why a CAD person would care about XPS? In short, because DWF usage is ultimately hampered by end-users not having the DWF viewer installed. This is why PDF continues to be a strong standard, even in the Autodesk world - because EVERYONE already has Acrobat Reader installed. So if the XPS viewer will read the next generation of DWF files (because they're XPS compatible) I think that will significantly increase everyone's ability to use DWF with their customers - so that's added value.