Printing in Windows 8: Adios Driver Hassles, Hello Print Class Framework

Most people focus on the love-it-or-hate-it Metro interface when they think of Windows 8, but the next iteration of Microsoft's classic operating system is coming with a lot of intriguing behind the scenes changes, too. Everything from graphics handling to the way the OS handles disk health has been reconfigured in Windows 8, and a new post on the Building Windows 8 blog proves that no task is too small to receive Microsoft's focus: the company is simplifying printing in the new operating system, and the changes sound great.

Microsoft is introducing a new version of its print driver architecture in Windows 8, version 4. In addition to being smaller and faster than the current v3 architecture used by modern Windows systems, it also aims to be nearly universal.

The v4 architecture is built around a print class driver framework. Basically, Windows 8 will recognize most printers out of the box, without the need to install model-specific device drivers. That's right; it's pretty much plug and play by design. The framework is extensible and allows manufacturers to add new models easily, as well.

The former v3 architecture will still be supported in Windows 8 to ensure compatibility with printers that may not have been added to v4's printer class framework. The v4 architecture and its print class framework is coming to Windows RT, too, but due to space restraints and ARM compatibility issues the tablet-friendly OS won't include legacy v3 support.

The full Building Windows 8 blog post contains many more nitty gritty details, including a description of the complex interplay between graphics systems and printing abilities. Windows 8 will be available at retail on October 26th.