Microsoft – Windows 8 will have a new printer driver architecture

A new Windows 8 development blog update and this time, it’s about printing.

In Windows 8  Microsoft have introduced a new printer driver architecture, which they call version 4, or v4. 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.

V4 is the fourth iteration of the printer driver architecture in Windows. V3 was the architecture used from Windows 2000 to Windows 7, and it’s actually still fully supported in Windows 8 for device compatibility reasons. So if you only have an existing driver available for your current printer, then it should still work in Windows 8.

Microsoft give some background:

Before I explain how the print system works, I’d like to talk about some of the requirements that we worked to address with the Windows 8 print system.

To get to 95%, we need over 1000 models supported. But the problem is even harder because the printers that make up this set of 100, or 300, or 1000 changes all the time. The 100 printers that represent 50% of the market today are not the same 100 printers that will represent 50% next week, or next month, and especially not next year. Every day, many people buy and install new printers.

As I mentioned above, we basically took a brute-force approach to solving this in the past. We have representatives from the major printer manufacturers working directly with Microsoft, sitting in offices in Redmond, working to check their source code into Windows. They would create a completely new set of in-box drivers for each new release of Windows. This just isn’t very efficient.

In Windows 8, we took a radically different approach, and have stopped shipping lots of printer drivers with Windows. 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. A true driverless printing experience requires changes to how most printers are designed, and the print class driver framework provides support for this idea, but we also feel that it’s very important to provide as much support for existing devices as possible.

With the ability to support new and planned printers, the number of printers that are supported by the Windows 8 print class driver framework will actually increase over time.

Besides the great progress in increasing the number of devices covered, we have also been able to reduce the resources that we use to achieve this coverage.

First, we reduced the amount of disk space needed to support printers and imaging devices from 768MB in Windows Vista, to about 184MB in Windows 8. This number is an average across different editions and architectures of Windows 8.

The following graphic illustrates the reduction in space used since Windows Vista.

Disk space needed to support printers and imaging

Disk space needed to support printers and imaging

Read more about the new Windows 8 Printer architecture here.

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