Microsoft’s New Printer Framework V4

Printing…that one PC experience that is taken for granted but is used by everyone. But Microsoft has taken steps to make the printing operation easier to use on the Windows 8 System.

The New Printer Driver Architecture: V4

For Windows8, Microsoft introduced a new printer driver architecture called version 4, or v4. In essence V4 produces smaller, faster printer drivers, and it institutes the notion of a print class driver framework. This system allows people to install their printers without having to locate a driver for that device.

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Drivers using the V3 architecture from Windows 2000 to Windows 7, are still supported in Windows 8 for device compatibility reasons. The good thing is that if you only have an existing driver available for your current printer, then it should still work in Windows 8.

The Print System in Windows 8

The purpose of the V4 print system is to provide apps with the means to print content to any installed printer without concern about the installation of that particular device.

For apps, it is straightforward to add printing support. The app specifies the format that the content needs to print. So for Metro style apps, this will often be HTML5 or XAML. On the other hand Win32 apps like Word or Photoshop, use a specific format that the content uses for each particular app.

In Windows 8, all Metro style apps use Direct2D as their basic drawing format, and Direct2D and XPS share the same XML-based graphics “language.” This allows the applications to operate with an integration of content between the software and hardware. One implication is that the amount of disk drive space required for printing operations will be less on Windows 8 than on Windows 7, or Windows Vista.

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V4  also uses Direct2D to render the same content to the print system. Reader’s content can easily be submitted to the print system as XPS, without any costly conversion from GDI.

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What this means for users

Great But how does this affect users in Windows 8? Here’s how. When you plug a new printer into Windows, it just works, without your needing to go off and find drivers. By contrast Windows Vista had about 4500 drivers while Windows 7 had about 2100 drivers. With Windows 8, the new v4 printer driver architecture removes the need for having so many printer drivers. In Windows 8 Microsoft stopped shipping many printer drivers with Windows. Instead, they built a print class driver framework.

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How Windows Printing Works

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