Windows 8 printing features detailed

We are supposed to live in a world where we are using less and less paper, but the truth is there will also be a need for using physical media, even for printing digital documents and photos. In a new post on the official Windows 8 blog, Microsoft goes over some of the new printing features and improvements it has put into the OS.

The post states that the printer drivers in Windows 8 are actually the fourth major printer driver revision in Windows history. The previous version was used in Windows 2000 to Windows 7. Microsoft states, "The v4 architecture produces smaller, faster printer drivers, and it supports the idea of a print class driver framework--a system that allows people to install their printers without having to locate a driver for that device, in many cases."

Microsoft gives a number of details on how printing will work with Windows 8 Metro style apps. The Windows 8 print system works with a format called XML Paper Specification (also known as XPS) that uses high-fidelity color and is highly flexible. The blog states, "In Windows 8, we have a distinct improvement to this story because all Metro style apps use Direct2D as their basic drawing format, and Direct2D and XPS share the same XML-based graphics 'language.'"

Microsoft also wanted to make sure it supported a lot of printers for Windows 8, since people tend to keep their printers around for between five to seven years. Microsoft has a number of test beds for printer support such as the one shown above. Previous Windows versions have shipped with lots of different printer drivers; Microsoft said that Windows Vista shipped with 4,500 printer drivers, while Windows 7 included 2,100 drivers.

Windows 8 does away with this approach. The blog states:

Instead, we built a print class driver framework. This framework is extensible, as it supports printing to existing devices, but it also allows manufacturers to include support for new devices, even those that have not yet been designed. With a print class driver framework, we can get closer to giving you an experience like driverless printing, where you don't have to actually go and find a driver, but instead the printer just works with the Windows printing system.

Microsoft offers an example of what the Epson NX430 printer UI looks like in Windows 8 Metro. The blog states, "It includes an attractive view of the ink levels of the printer, and is much easier to use, especially on touch-screen devices." There will still be a desktop application for people who print with Windows 8 desktop apps.

Even the install times for a print driver has been cut down for Windows 8. The blog states, " ... we compared the installation times for an Epson Artisan on Windows 7 versus Windows 8 (using a relatively small driver on Windows 7): the install time on Windows 7 was 14 seconds, compared to under 2 seconds on Windows 8."

Source: Windows 8 blog | Images via Microsoft

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