PDF is a clever solution to a problem and that is how to enable people to view and print documents on their computer when they do not have the software that created them.
For example, you could have a desktop publishing program and create a leaflet, manual, brochure, newsletter or some other publication. If you then give the file to someone else, they would not be able to view it or print it unless they had the same software you have.
It is not just about software and suppose you write a document in a word processor and you use an unusual font that is only on your computer. When someone else views or prints the document and they don’t have the font, some other font could be used and it could ruin the look and the layout.
PDF (Portable Document Format) files display documents as if you had the original software and all the fonts. All you need is a PDF viewer utility and these are widely available for many computers, operating systems and devices.
Microsoft tried to create an alternative called XPS that does the same thing. The technical details of how it does it are different, but the end result is the same. An XPS document can be viewed on a computer that does not have the original software or fonts exactly as it should be.
It was included in Windows Vista and it has been in every version of Windows since, including Windows 10.
The problem with XPS (Open XML Paper Specification) is that no-one really wants it. It just never took off, even though it has been bundled with Windows for many years.
With Windows 10, Microsoft has included XPS, but for the first time has also included support for creating PDF files too. Now you can create documents that anyone can view and print.
It works in the same way as XPS has works and there is a virtual printer called Microsoft Print to PDF, just as there is a Microsoft XPS Document Writer virtual printer.
Using it is a piece of cake. When you print a document, no matter what software you are using, go to the printer setup and set the printer to Microsoft Print to PDF. It appears alongside real printers in the printer selection list, but instead of sending the file to a real printer, you are prompted for a filename and the PDF file is saved to disk.
This is not the world’s best PDF creator, but it is simple, easy to use, and it creates basic PDF files. Use it instead of XPS.