The XPS Document Writer is xenophobic
The XPS document format is one of the most half-baked attempts to destroy a competitor that Microsoft have ever made.
Designed to counter Adobe PDF‘s dominance of the portable document market, it was introduced with Vista and has never caught on, despite the XPS Document Writer setting itself as the default printer on any new install of Windows. This is partly because the reader software for XPS is (for no good reason) a plugin for Internet Explorer, which means that when you open an XPS document, it opens your web browser. If you are one of the 34% of people in the world not using Internet Explorer as your web browser, then the plugin never runs and you can’t open the document. This has been changed in Windows 7, but it’s too little, too late.
All of this is a shame, because Adobe Acrobat is a bug-ridden and overpriced piece of junk that is more bloated than a lactose-intolerant hippopotamus after eating a metric tonne of Stilton. Microsoft Office and Windows Vista are often accused of this; Acrobat is worse than both of them. Combined. I’d be quite happy for Microsoft to crush Adobe PDF utterly, but if XPS is their answer, they are going to fail miserably.
But, I digress. Today I discovered that the XPS system in Windows not only hates anyone not using Internet Explorer, it also hates anyone not in the United States. Regardless of the locale Windows is installed using, it will always set itself to create documents using US Letter sized paper by default. Very few printer drivers have this problem, even ones made by HP. It’s a schoolboy error, and an extremely irritating one at that. Almost any printer driver made in the last 5 years will have the common decency to recognise when the user has set a locale other than United States, and set the default paper size accordingly (to A4, if you are in Europe).
You might think this would only affect you if you were stupid enough to actually create an XPS document. You would be wrong. Because it sets itself as the default printer, it affects the default page setup of a multitude of programs. In the case of Microsoft Office 2007, the problem goes deeper still. Even if your Office document is set to a different paper size, when you try to save a PDF (yes, a PDF, not an XPS document), it will end up sized as Letter paper, because the paper size is being read from the default printer. Incredibly, this even happens if you use the Adobe Acrobat PDF writer plugin, and not just the Microsoft one that comes with Office 2007.
I wasted a good 45 minutes today trying to work out why all my PDFs were coming out on Letter paper. There was much swearing and gnashing of teeth. When I discovered the cause, let us just say that I was… displeased.