When I wrote for MacWEEK back in the early ’90s working with Rick LePage, Missy Roback and now IDC display analyst Bob O’Donnell, the most enduring product I reviewed was probably the first version of Acrobat.
I actually preferred a competitor called Common Ground from No Hannds Software that could produce a 300-dpi bitmap that eliminated the need to embed fonts. It also had the novel ability to create a Windows executable with the document embedded from the Mac version, eliminating the need for the recipient to download a Windows reader. Today, of course, using such a feature would be ill-advised in our age of rampant viruses.
Common Ground was eventually acquired by enterprise software vendor Hummingbird and today there’s no trace of it on the company’s Web site as Acrobat ruled essentially unchallenged for more than a decade. That was, until Windows Vista with its recursive initialism XPS (XML Paper Specification). You may remember the hew and cry by Adobe regarding Microsoft’s inclusion of XPS in Vista. but it has become another Vista technology to see slow pickup like the kind I wrote about in my Switched On column a while back.
That column was about hardware, but XPS does have a hardware component. At WinHEC a few years ago, Bill Gates demonstrated a printer that could natively handle XPS documents and the advantages it had in printing out a PowerPoint presentation in all its Windows Presentation Foundation glory.
I’ve installed the XPS Essentials Pack on XP and used it a couple of times, particularly when I’ve needed to exchange files from a Vista computer on which I’ve neglected to install the free CutePDF driver. But I’m sure if I were to send XPS files to others they’d have no idea what to do with them. And Microsoft can’t even begin to consider XPS as an alternative to PDF until there is a Mac reader and preferably a print driver (to provide an alternative to OS X’s integrated PDF creation). Going cross-platform strikes me as a bona fide requirement of a portable document format, At least there is a third-party viewer.
In any case, XPS is still in the game and the team recently blogged more details about its support in Windows 7.