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Acrobat-killer Submitted to Standards Body 326

Flying Wallenda writes "Did Adobe make a tactical blunder when it complained to the European Union about Microsoft including support for its XML Paper Specification (XPS) in Windows Vista and Office 2007? Now that Microsoft has decided to submit its 'PDF killer' to a standards-setting organization, Adobe may be regretting its decision. 'Microsoft is looking again at its license in order to make it compatible with open source licenses, which means that the "covenant not to sue" will likely be extended to cover any intellectual property dispute stemming from the simple use or incorporation of XPS. The end result is that using XPS may be considerably more attractive for developers now that the EU has apparently expressed concerns over the license.'"
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Acrobat-killer Submitted to Standards Body

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  • by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:07PM (#16460801) Journal
    PDF already is compatible in the ways you state, is stable, and exists in many ISO approved forms. ISO 15930-2 ISO 15930-6:2003(E) i.e. PDF/X driven by prepress industry, PDF/A ISO standard requested by the US government.

    We already have a standard, open, format for this sort of presentation. We don't need another. We REALLY don't need another from a company that is known to "embrace and extinguish" competing implementations of standards.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:12PM (#16460891)
    Your complaints are about the Adobe's PDF reader, not the PDF format itself. MS is only proposing a standard, not presenting a reader.

    FWIW, there are plenty of fast non-crappy PDF readers. For example, xpdf [] and foxit [].
  • by DigitlDud ( 443365 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:20PM (#16460981)
    Yeah I'm reading over the specification right now and the color features are pretty extensive. There's support for storing color information in many different color spaces including CMYK.

    There's nothing in there for interactivity though, it's strictly a fixed document format.
  • Re:Adobe is screwed (Score:2, Informative)

    by ClamIAm ( 926466 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:22PM (#16460999)
    Oh ok []
  • by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:55PM (#16461377) Journal
    PDF is not a de facto standard. As I mentioned in another post, there are ISO standards for PDF. The spec is fully open, you could go download it now, no agreeing to anything required (though it is something like 1100 pages, better get some coffee).
  • by pilkul ( 667659 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:57PM (#16461401)
    Look up what XML [], XSLT [] and functional languages [] are; you're a bit confused as to what's going on here. XPS is a pure page description language with no programming language features. XSLT is a programming language of sorts, which happens to both be composed of XML and process XML, but it is not the page description language.
  • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @08:21PM (#16461621)
    FoxIt Reader is a great interim solution until this gets standardized. It reads PDF files and opens much faster than Acrobat. I'm not sure why Acrobat reader is so slow, but even the fastest available hardware seems to choke on it.
  • foxit reader chokes at large PDF files

    example: the e-book version of Harrison's principle of internal medicine
  • by lahvak ( 69490 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @09:07PM (#16462101) Homepage Journal
    Look around, there are bunch of libraries that generate pdf. As far as applications go, every decent desktop publishing software will generate pdf. Without that it would be pretty much useless, as pdf is de facto standard format in printing industry. As far as tex goes, if you are still typsetting to PostScript and converting to pdf, you are missing a bunch of features. Pdftex can generate pdf directly, and includes bunch of nice features that the original tex engine lacks. For graphics, there are bunch of interactive graphics softwares that save to pdf, and there are several vector graphics scripting languages that can generate pdf (asymptote, metapost (via mptopdf), pyx, ...).

    Postscript is way too flexible, it is a freaking programming language, but pdf is in my oppinion just right. I don't agree with this "if it is xml, it is automatically portable, editable, etc." mindset. Xml could easilly be much less portable and much harder to edit than pdf.
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @09:58PM (#16462549) Homepage
    I have noting against the PDF standard - but when I view PDF files on my Mac, I set up Preview as the default application because, frankly, Preview can open a PDF file an order of magnitude faster. As a simple file-viewer, Acrobat makes PDF's the 2nd to last choice for convenience (with MS Word being the last choice, of course).
  • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @10:34PM (#16462839)
    Does XPS do all that? Does XPS do CMYK? Can XPS generate the equivalent of PDF/X-1a, an ISO standard for advertising specs required by Time Inc. and other big media sites?

    Ok, by now everyone reading this has surely looked up XPS and can see that it has not only several features that PDF technology doesn't, but it leapfrogs the PDF/Postscript technology in many areas, even including not static publishing concepts that will be a part of the upcoming generation with Electronic Inks.

    XPS also is going to hurt Adobe hard in the printer and publishing industry. There are already a number of consumer printers with XPS technology coming to the market and there are also many digital presses that will offer XPS instead of PDF, because it is free to do so instead of paying the Adobe tax.

    So for large publishers there is already a bit of a buzz about it, as it may reduce the digital press costs without the Adobe licensing and they are also looking at some of the new features of XPS that will speed up production and produce better quality output easier. (Less need for rasterization and conversion from the original artwork, better font support, etc.)

    One of the biggest problems in the digital prining industry now is making sure the content they are producing 'outputs' properly in PDF/Poscript. And this is a BIG issue.

    For example I can create Brochure now in AI or CorelDraw that will output with clipping problems when it goes to PDF format because PDF just doesn't handle all the features that full scale vector/layer illustration software offers.

    Now when trying to get this to a digital PDF/Postscript based press, this is a MAJOR issue, and the artwork has to be complexity reduced, have the clipping fixed, and often most of the Brochure ends up being rasterized at the press's resolution because the Vector and Font support in a PDF fails miserably.

    These types of problems have been big issues in the publising/printing community for a long time, and Postscript v3/PDF was supposed to help, but instead things have often gotten worse. So why even have PDF based press when we (as publishers) end up rasterizing the entire brochure and artwork and are basically sending a PDF Bitmap to the device so it prints as designed?

    Here is where XPS steps in and takes control of the ball, it has the preservation because of the extra features in the specification, so there is less fighting with fonts and less rasterization.

    There is also the factor that no special software is needed, as Vista does all the XPS work inherently, which opens the door up for more flexibility in design software used as well. (Yes OSX does Postscript/PDF, and even WindowsXP does Postscript printer output, but there is a world of difference in the way Vista handles the from screen to document to output device because of the XAML and XPS technologies.)

    XPS is being seen as a welcome fix to many Adobe PDF/Postscript issues in the printing industry.

    To fully understand how XPS/XAML technologies work and also to see what they offer than PDF doesn't, you just need to go read the XPS specifications, also do a search on the printer and press manufacturers that are planning on XPS devices and why they see XPS has a good technology.
  • Not a thing correct (Score:5, Informative)

    by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Monday October 16, 2006 @11:00PM (#16463047) Homepage Journal

    Please, in the future, before posting an explanation kindly know what in the hell you're babbling on about.

    PostScript [] and PCL [] are most certainly used for nearly the same purposes: A Page Description Language, aka PDL []. Indeed PCL was explicitly created by HP as a simpler, faster and unlicensed alternative to PostScript.

    Postscript & PDF are related in that PDF is based on Postscript [] (a well written brief history [] of PDF). PDF simply builds upon PS to include meta information, JavaScript, hyperlinking (internally & externally), forms & tag structures, extended colorspaces, etc. And yes, many Postscript level 3 printers can directly print PDF. (That you're unfamiliar with this feature is likely due to your apparent near complete ignorance of high end or prepress printing.)

    Oh, and most self-respecting printers don't support PCL, just those from HP or licensing PCL or it's clones (yes, the PostScript workalike has its own clone market!) Further confusing things HP now uses a PostScript clone called Phoenix in their laser printers so they can offer ps support without paying Adobe licensing fees.

    Of course, PostScript & PDF are now publicly [] documented [] and it is possible to recreate them, with Ghostscript [] being the best known example (Phoenix is probably the most widely distributed)

    Lastly, XPS is just a document format as is ODF, PDF,, NO. Nothing about that is right, indeed it pretty much completes every statement in your posting being flat out wrong or wildly inaccurate.

    Go away and don't post again until you have something at least marginally correct or interesting to "News for Nerds". You're drooling in public and it is ugly, annoying, and counter-productive.

  • I haven't tried this particular PDF, but I had noticed it choking on larger PDFs as well, but since I updated to version 2, it hasn't once failed on anything I've found yet. I recently bought a new machine and even with the crashing on some PDFs I still preferred it to crapping up my clean install with Acrobat and all the garbage that comes with it. And now, since upgrading I've been really happy with it.
  • Re:SVG? (Score:3, Informative)

    by omicronish ( 750174 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:25AM (#16463679)
    I see a lot of posts in this discussion that say XPS is better than PDF, because it's XML and human readable and you can manipulate it with XSLT, it's going to be submitted as a standard, etc. That just makes me think: what about SVG? It's already a standard, it's XML, human readable, XSLT, etc.

    Those are the same comments people have made regarding Windows Presentation Foundation (AKA "Avalon") and XAML []. Guess what? The pages in an XPS document are XAML files represented in a strict subset of WPF. In fact, the XPS viewer provided as part of .NET 3.0 is powered by WPF.

    As for what differentiates it from SVG, WPF provides a higher level of elements that do not exist in SVG, namely UI controls [] such as DockPanel, InkCanvas, TextBox, and even 3D content via Viewport3D. The New York Times Reader [] is built purely using WPF. You can't do that with SVG without writing the controls from scratch (but please enlighten me if I'm wrong). Therefore, while XPS itself isn't much different from SVG, the architecture in which XPS resides reaches far beyond SVG.

    There's still another argument against XPS/XAML/WPF: Why didn't Microsoft simply extend SVG? IMO it would break one point of elegance regarding WPF, which is that the XML elements correspond directly to the .NET WPF objects and follow .NET naming conventions. For example, XPS has a Path element with a Fill attribute; the .NET analog is a Path class with a Fill property of type Brush. There are other arguments as well, but I'm not too familiar with them.

  • by red_crayon ( 202742 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:19AM (#16463999)
    using TeX or whatever

    And that's bad because...?

    You want a programmatic way to generate PDF,
    yet you eschew pdfTeX [], which is a
    compiled language that produces PDF as native output,
    and is a descendent of TeX, a language invented by
    Knuth, a programmatic fellow if there ever was one.
  • by wanax ( 46819 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:20AM (#16464009)
    That is totally untrue. The entire MEDLINE database, nearly all of Science Web ( is PDF. There have been millions of hours spent creating and indexing much our science today in PDF files. There ain't gonna be a quick changeover. Most scientists are inherently conservative about things like this, because not unreasonably, they assume that any new standard is going to screw their previous databases. A large proportion of the publications in this country relies on federal grant money, and both the grants and all that has been published as results are in PDF.

    PDF, after over a decade in existence has gained a standard foothold in a wide variety of fields, anybody who believes that there's gonna be a second change in less than that time needs to make a reality check.
  • by lpontiac ( 173839 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @04:28AM (#16465015)

    Apple made a big deal out of "Display PDF" in Mac OS X. However, Display PDF's really just:

    • The OS X rendering model and PDF rendering model have a lot in common. (But OS X _does not_ render everything via PDF).
    • OS X ships with a PDF viewer.
    • OS X ships with a PDF-generating print driver.
    • Add a whole load of marketing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @04:50AM (#16465143)
    Only for scanned documents--it doesn't support vector graphics in any way, shape, or form.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @05:17AM (#16465299)
    Its closed source
    Huh? You can download the specification [] and there's loads of open source utilities to read and write PDF files.

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