What Is an XPS File?

XPS is a Microsoft filetype similar to PDF

What to Know

  • An XML file is an XML Paper Specification file.
  • Open one with XPS Viewer (it's included in Windows) or NiXPS View.
  • Convert to PDF, JPG, DOCX, and others with Zamzar or PDFaid.com.

This article explains what XPS files are, how to open one, and which programs are able to convert one to a more familiar format like PDF or JPG.

What Is an XPS File?

An .XPS file is an XML Paper Specification file that describes the structure and content of a document, including the layout and appearance. XPS files can be one page or several.

XPS files were first implemented as a replacement for the EMF format, and are a bit like Microsoft's version of PDFs, but based instead on the XML format. Because of the structure of XPS files, their description of a document does not change based on the operating system or printer and is consistent across all platforms.

XPS files share a document with others so that what you see on the page is the same as what they'll see when they use an XPS viewer program. Make an XPS file in Windows by "printing" to Microsoft XPS Document Writer when asked which printer to use.

Some XPS files may instead be related to Action Replay files used with some video games, but Microsoft's format is much more common.

XPS Files
XPS Files.

How to Open XPS Files

The quickest way to open XPS files in Windows is to use XPS Viewer, which is included with Windows Vista and newer versions of Windows. You can install the XPS Essentials Pack to open XPS files on Windows XP.

XPS Viewer sets permissions for the XPS file as well as digitally signs the document. Windows 10 and Windows 8 can also use Microsoft's Reader app to open XPS files.

Open XPS files on a Mac with Pagemark, NiXPS View or Edit and the Pagemark XPS Viewer plug-in for Firefox and Safari web browsers.

Linux users can use Pagemark's programs to open XPS files, too.

Action Replay game files that use the XPS file extension can be opened with PS2 Save Builder.

Because you might need different programs to open different XPS files, see How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension in Windows if it's automatically opening in a program that you don't want to use it with.

How to Convert an XPS File

One of the fastest ways to convert an XPS file to PDF, JPG, PNG, or some other image-based format is to upload the file to Zamzar. After the file is loaded on that website, select from a handful of formats to convert the XPS file to, and then download the new file back to your computer.

UnitePDF saves XPS to PDF online. Drag the file onto the page or click Choose File, and then select the convert button when you're ready to download the PDF.

The website PDFaid.com lets you convert an XPS file directly to a Word document in either the DOC or DOCX format. Just upload the XPS file and choose the conversion format. Download the converted right there from the website.

The Able2Extract program does the same but isn't free. It does, however, let you convert an XPS file to an Excel document, which could be really handy depending on what you're planning to use the file for.

Microsoft's XpsConverter converts an XPS file to OXPS.

With Action Replay files, just rename it from whatever.xps to whatever.sps if you want your file to open in programs that support the Sharkport Saved Game file format (.SPS files). You might also be able to convert it to MD, CBS, PSU, and other similar formats with the PS2 Save Builder program mentioned above.

More Information on the XPS Format

The XPS format is Microsoft's attempt at the PDF format. However, PDF is much, much more popular than XPS, which is why you've probably encountered way more PDFs in the form of digital bank statements, product manuals, and an output option in lots of document and ebook readers/creators.

Sending someone an XPS file might make them think that it's malware if they aren't familiar with the extension. Also, because mobile devices and Mac computers don't include a built-in XPS viewer (and most do have built-in PDF support), you're more likely to make someone spend time looking around for an XPS viewer than you would a PDF reader.

The document writer in Windows 8 and newer versions of Windows defaults to using the .OXPS file extension instead of .XPS. This is why you can't open OXPS files in Windows 7 and older versions of Windows.

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