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Posted 9 Mar 2008

Generate XPS from Word documents with VB 2008 and WPF

, 9 Mar 2008
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An alternative way to create XPS documents via Visual Basic code and VSTO assemblies.



With the release of .NET Framework 3.0, Microsoft introduced a new file format called XPS (XML Paper Specifications) with the .Xps extension. This file format was thought of as a standard for documents portability; in fact, XPS documents can be read on every system without having installed the originating application (as it is for PDF documents).

.NET Framework 3.x fully supports this kind of documents which can be created and manipulated with extreme precision. Manipulating this kind of documents via code (particularly writing) is not often simple, especially if you need to add pictures, thumbnails, digital signatures, and other supported contents.

Even if the .NET Framework 3.x exposes several classes to read, write, and manage XPS documents, in this article, I want to show you how to create XPS documents starting from Microsoft Word 2007 documents (.docx and .doc formats) with very few steps.

In fact, we can create XPS documents by writing a few lines of Visual Basic 2008 code and referencing Visual Studio Tools for Office main assemblies. We’ll see this in action inside a WPF application. Two are the prerequisites you must adhere to: you need to have Microsoft Word 2007 installed and the XPS/PDF exporter add-in.

Using the code

First of all, open Visual Studio 2008 and create a new WPF Application for Visual Basic. Then, add a reference to the following assemblies:

  • ReachFramework.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Tools.v9.0.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Tools.Word.v9.0dll
  • Microsoft.VisualStudio.Tools.Office.Runtime.v9.0.dll

As you can understand, we’re adding a reference to all VSTO assemblies for Visual Studio 2008 but without creating an Office solution.

On the presentation layer, we want to let the user choose a Word 2007 document by clicking a button and automatically show the exported document from within a WPF DocumentViewer control. The following XAML code could accomplish this:

<Window x:Class="Window1"



  Title="Window1" Height="300" Width="300">
<RowDefinition Height="40"/>
        <DocumentViewer Grid.Row="1" Name="DocumentViewer1" />
        <Button HorizontalAlignment="Left" 

           Margin="10,10,10,5" Name="Button1" 

           Height="25" Width="150">
              Select a document</Button>

Then, we can go to write managed code. First of all, we have to add the following Imports directives:

Imports Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word
Imports Microsoft.Win32
Imports System.Windows.Xps.Packaging 

Second, we could write a method to export to XPS the Word document selected by the user. Comments within the code should be helpful:

Private Function exportAsXps(ByVal fileName As String) As Boolean
        'Starts a background instance of Word 2007
        'and adds the specified document to the 
        ‘documents collection 
        Dim wordInstance As New _ 

        'Obtains the output file name, 
        ‘replacing the extension with.Xps
        Dim outputName As String = _
          String.Concat(IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(fileName), "\", _
          IO.Path.GetFileNameWithoutExtension(fileName), ".xps")

        'Retrieves the active document instance 
        ‘and saves specifying name and format
        Dim doc As Document = wordInstance.ActiveDocument
        doc.SaveAs(outputName, WdSaveFormat.wdFormatXPS)

        'Shuts down Word 2007

        'View the generated XPS Document
        Dim xpsDoc As New XpsDocument(outputName, IO.FileAccess.Read)
        DocumentViewer1.Document = xpsDoc.GetFixedDocumentSequence

        Return True

        'TODO: Add here specific exceptions
    Catch ex As Exception
        MessageBox.Show(ex.ToString, "", _
            MessageBoxButton.OK, MessageBoxImage.Information)
        Return False
    End Try
End Function

Once we have our method, using it is really simple. We can call it from the Click event handler for the button we implemented to select a Word document:

Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _
    ByVal e As System.Windows.RoutedEventArgs) Handles Button1.Click

    Dim ofd As New OpenFileDialog

    'The Win32 OpenFileDialog can return True, False or Nothing
    Dim result As Nullable(Of Boolean)

    With ofd
        .Title = "Select a Word document"
        .Filter = "Documents|*.docx;*.doc|All files|*.*"

        result = .ShowDialog

        'If the dialog returns True, starts exporting
        If result = True Then

            Dim exportResult As Boolean = exportAsXps(.FileName)

            'TODO: Add here check code
        End If
    End With
End Sub

The above picture shows the result of the conversion of a .docx (Word 2007) document of mine.

Points of Interest

With very few lines of code and without having Microsoft Word executing, we can create XPS documents from our Word contents, even when very articulated. The code can be surely enhanced, but I think it can be a good starting point if you’re interested in this kind of operations.

Using this technique, you can export documents not only to XPS but also to all formats which are supported by Microsoft Word 2007.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Alessandro Del Sole
Italy Italy
I'm a Microsoft Visual Basic MVP. I'm an Italian .NET developer and I write articles and books about Visual Basic, Visual Studio LightSwitch, and the .NET technologies.

Check out my blog at:

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralDoesnt work. I get COMException Pin
Sacha Barber22-Oct-08 2:14
mvpSacha Barber22-Oct-08 2:14 

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