About XPS files and how to open them on a Mac

By , May 13, 2016

Opening XPS files on a Mac

XPS files are essentially like Microsoft’s version of a PDF file. They’re easy to create and open on a Windows PC, but when it comes to OS X users, XPS files are anything but plug and play.

In this piece, we’ll talk about XPS files and what they’re used for, and then we’ll touch on how to open XPS files on a Mac easily and for free without having to download any software.

What are XPS files?

As we noted earlier, they’re similar to PDF files in many ways. The only real difference is that they’re made by Microsoft rather than Adobe and are typically used to save information in an easily shared or printable format.

XPS files may contain snapshots of a series of directions, or a form of some kind that needs to be filled out. But realistically, an XPS file can be just about anything.

Because XPS files are used less often than PDF files, and are mostly used on Windows machines only, Mac OS X doesn’t support them out of the box like it does PDF files. As a result, when you try to open an XPS file on your Mac after downloading it, your Mac doesn’t know what to do with it.

This poses a problem when a Windows user sends an XPS file to a Mac user. So, how do you open them without buying expensive XPS-reading software and without installing unwanted add-ons on your Mac? We’ll show you.

Opening XPS files on your Mac

To open an XPS file on your Mac, all you are going to need is a free Google account. You should have one already for your activities in Gmail and YouTube, but if you don’t have one yet, you can head over to Google’s sign up website to create one.

After you have an established Google account, you can follow these steps to open an XPS file on your Mac:

1) Visit Google Docs in your preferred web browser.

2) Click on the Folder button in the top right of the Google Docs interface:

Opening XPS files on a Mac 1

3) Now you will get a pop-up interface. Click on the Upload tab and then click on the blue Select a file from your computer button.

Opening XPS files on a Mac 2

4) From the file selector that appears, navigate to the XPS file you wish to upload, then select it and click on the Open button.

Opening an XPS file on your Mac 3

5) Google Docs will then upload the XPS file to their online servers, and then it will open up in your web browser so you can view it.

Opening XPS files on your Mac 4

And that’s all there is to it. You’ve just opened an XPS file on your Mac without downloading any software or having to purchase any expensive applications to view them.

What’s more is Google Docs allows you to re-download the file on any computer, print the file, or share it with anybody, so it’s a very useful tool that you can use across various platforms.

Wrapping up

XPS files aren’t typically something you’re going to make on a Mac, but because there are the rare situations where you might receive one from somebody, it’s good to know how you can open them without having to install add-ons and software on your Mac. Fortunately, the free cloud-based Google Docs is your best friend in this scenario.

Also read:

Have you ever had issues opening an XPS file on your Mac before? Share in the comments!

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  • DOOManiac

    It may be worth noting that, for Windows 10 users, you can finally Print to PDF from the OS. This means you don’t really need XPS anymore and can safely disable (or even remove) the XPS printer.

  • Alex Wilson

    I find it easier to tell the person to please send in a universal file format like PDF. Of course that is after I tell them how to send an email so I don’t have to open a damn winmail.dat file first. Ugh! First world problems 😉

    • How is that easier?

      • Alex Wilson

        Because they learn, plus if it was really that important they wouldn’t have sent it in some obscure file format in the first place.

  • iByron

    Okay I must be missing something. Why would someone intentionally send this XPS file when PDF is known to be readable on every current platform on the planet? What is the benefit?

    • XPS is a file type built into Windows. Someone who has no knowledge of PDFs, or who simply makes them because they’re easier to make without installing any third-party software may send an XPS file instead of a PDF.

  • jameskatt

    There are 26 very inexpensive apps in the Mac App Store which will read XPS files or convert them to PDF.

    Where there is a need, app developers will find a way. These apps are much easier to use than loading your files to Google’s servers. You also don’t have to send protected and private information over the internet.

    • And Google is free :).

      I don’t think this process was really that hard. You simply upload and view, so I don’t think ease of use is really an issue.

      • jameskatt

        The Mac Apps are much more useful. And they are inexpensive.
        And you don’t have to send your personal data over the internet like when you send it to Google. You also don’t have to wait to upload the file, it will be instantly be read by the Mac Apps.