How to Handle XPS Files with the XPS Viewer in Windows 7 or Windows 8

XPS files or XML Paper Specification files, are Microsoft's direct competitor to Adobe's PDF format. XPS Viewer is the tool used to view XPS files, similar to Adobe Reader. While XPS might not be as popular as PDF, it is used by some Windows users. For those of you who use it or would like to try it out, we decided to show what are the main qualities of the XPS format, how to create XPS files and how to work with the XPS Viewer, a tool available both in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

What Are XPS Files and How to Create Them

XPS is a widely-supported, fixed-layout document format designed to preserve document fidelity. XPS holds several advantages such as good cooperation with other technologies like Microsoft's digital rights management technology and it's independence of software and hardware. It is easy to create XPS documents from any type of file that supports printing since this functionality is integrated in all Windows applications. For more information on this topic, I recommend reading Microsoft's XPS website.

You can create an XPS document from any file that can be printed. Go to the Print Menu of the application you are using and choose "Microsoft XPS Document Writer" file as a printing device.

You will be asked where to save the new file and to give it a name. Press Save and you are done.

Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 include a PDF or XPS option in their Save As menu.

In the 'Publish as PDF or XPS' window, set the file's location and name, choose XPS as the file type and click Publish.

The file will be created and saved in the location you specified.

Microsoft Office 2013 allows you to export documents as XPS files from the Export section in the Backstage view (click on the File tab).

Basic Operations with the XPS Viewer: Open, Print, Zoom, Search, etc.

To open an XPS file, just double click on it. The default program for opening XPS files in Windows 7 is XPS Viewer. In Windows 8, it is the Reader app. However you can launch the XPS Viewer application and open XPS files with it.

To open files from the application's interface, click on File -> Open and then browse to the desired document.

You can save a document under a new name, by pressing Save As in the File menu.

To view more details about a file that you have opened, go to File -> Properties.

This opens the well known file Properties window.

To print a document you have two options: you can either go to File -> Print or press the Print button found on the top toolbar.

The outline view shows the structure of your document. If your document has an outline, press the Outline button to display it.

The XPS Viewer application also offers different ways of viewing a document. Press the arrow near the Zoom icon and choose one of the ways available for viewing a document: 100%, One page, Page width, Thumbnails or Full screen.

Do you need to search for some word or phrase in particular? Type it in the Seach box and press Enter.

You can navigate the pages of a document using the Up and Down buttons on the bottom left of the XPS Viewer window.

How to Set Document Permissions with the XPS Viewer

XPS Viewer allows you to decide who can view, print, copy or digitally sign an XPS document and also how long a person can view or make changes to the document. It uses the Windows Rights Management Services technology to apply document permissions.

To use permissions you must have a Rights Account Certificate. If you don't have one or you need more information on this topic, go to Windows Right Management Services page.

Unfortunately we don't have the required setup to dive more into this subject and demo how everything works. Sorry about that!

How to Sign a Document with the XPS Viewer

A digital signature allows you to see who created an XPS document and to make sure the document was not changed after it was signed. To digitally sign a document you must first obtain a digital certificate. Certificates are used to verify the identity of a person or device, authenticate a service or encrypt files. A certificate for your personal use is not provided automatically so, you will have to contact a certificate authority to request a certificate and import it. If you work for an enterprise that uses certificates you will be able to sign an XPS document.

To sign a document go to Signatures -> Sign this document.

You will see the available certificate that you will have to confirm as correct or not.

If you don't have a signature, choose from the Signatures menu, "Request signatures".

Write your name and press the drop-down button to see the list of available intents for signing. Press the OK button.

You can view all the digital signatures, by choosing View signatures in the Signatures menu.

In the left-hand side of the window you can see the list of all the signatures that were used with that document. Double click on one of the signatures to see more information on it.

If available, you can see the name of the requested signer, the intent, the date until which the document is signed and the location. You can choose to either sign the document or remove the signature from the document by pressing the appropriate buttons.


As you can see from this tutorial, XPS is a document format which is good for publishing, archiving and transmitting documents. Also, XPS Viewer is a simple and easy to use application that handles this type of files. It looks and works the same in both Windows 7 and Windows 8 so you should have no trouble learning the basics about how it works, in either operating system.

If you have some tips or questions to share about XPS files and XPS Viewer don't hesitate to leave a comment.