Metro, Tube, Underground, El, Subway, PDF Killer?

Sarah O'Keefe / NewsLeave a Comment

News from the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference:

Officially unveiled as part of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ kick-off keynote, the new Microsoft document workflow format, code-named ‘Metro,’ sounds from initial explanations like a page-description language meant to compete with Adobe’s PostScript.

Microsoft to Pit ‘Metro’ Format Against Adobe PDF, PostScript? (

All of this is still smoke and mirrors, but a few interesting tidbits do emerge from the presentation:

  • The Metro page description language is XML-based.
  • Metro is supposed to provide files for a print spooler (similar to PCL or PostScript) and an application-independent page-description language (similar to PDF)
  • Metro’s license will be royalty-free to “encourage adoption.”
  • Metro Specification and FAQ

When Adobe introduced PostScript about 20 years ago, desktop publishing was just getting started. The idea of being able to print production-ready documents from the desktop was revolutionary. Today, we expect perfect print fidelity as a matter of course. The window of opportunity for introducing, field-testing, and debugging a page description language may have closed.

So, what does Microsoft do? They introduce Metro as part of their operating system. In Longhorn, the print spooling service will use Metro files.

I don’t know whether to be appalled or impressed. Does the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” ring a bell for anyone in Redmond?

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

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