Partners Contact US Site Map Blog
A professional PDF Converter, PDF Writer, PDF Creator, PDF Editor, HTML Converter, Postscript Converter, AutoCAD DWG Converter, as well as PCL Converter, etc.  

PCL (Printer control language)

What is PCL?
PCL is the standard print format for HP LaserJet-compatible printers. If you are now printing to a laser printer, you are using PCL! PCL files can be created from any Windows application by simply "printing to file" with a LaserJet-compatible printer and PCL driver set as the current Windows printer, or by redirecting a UNIX LaserJet-compatible printer queue to a file. This is easy to do, requires no licensed software and is inherently a true representation of the document.

Printer control language (PCL) was released in the 1980s by Hewlett-Packard as a simpler, faster and less expensive alternative to PostScript-based laser printers. PCL retains all those advantages today. Nothing comes for free, of course, and PCL has fewer features than PostScript or it descendant, PDF. However, the vast majority of business documents do not require the power of PostScript. Fewer features means simplicity, the biggest reason most workgroup printing is PCL and most printers sold today are PCL-based. Over 70 million LaserJets can't be wrong!

PCL was created from the beginning as a simple, open language. HP's business is printers, not proprietary page description languages. The result is that there are many vendors in the PCL business making printers, software which enhances print jobs, viewers, and more. This competition assures quality and cost effectiveness.

The fact that PCL is directly printable (you can run "print filename.pcl" in DOS or "lpr filename.pcl" in UNIX and it will print on any LaserJet compatible printer) gives PCL fundamental advantages as a portable document format over non-print-ready formats like PDF or TIFF. You can rest assured that as long as PCL-compatible printers continue to be available, your electronic document is at least as good an archival format as paper.
Printer Command Language, more commonly referred to as PCL, is a Page description language (PDL) developed by HP as a printer protocol and has become a de facto industry standard. Originally developed for early inkjet printers in 1984, PCL has been released in varying levels for thermal, matrix printer, and page printers. HP-GL and PJL are supported by later versions of PCL.

PCL is occasionally and incorrectly said to be an abbreviation for Printer Control Language.

PCL has been criticized for having less error tolerance than the competing PostScript printing language. PCL errors are especially common with PCL 6 hardware and drivers.
PCL levels 1 through 5 overview

PCL levels 1 through 5e/5c are command based languages using control sequences that are processed and interpreted in the order they are received. At a consumer level, PCL data streams are generated by a print driver. PCL output can also be easily generated by custom applications.

bullet PCL 1 was introduced in 1984 on the HP ThinkJet 2225 and provides basic text and graphics printing with a maximum resolution of 150 dpi (dots per inch).
bullet PCL 1+ was released with the HP QuietJet 2227.
bullet PCL 2 added Electronic Data Processing/Transaction functionality.
bullet PCL 3 was introduced in 1984 with the original HP LaserJet. This added support for bitmap fonts and increased the maximum resolution to 300 dpi. Other products with PCL 3 support were the HP DeskJet ink jet printer, HP 2932 series matrix printers and HP RuggedWriter 2235 matrix printers. PCL 3 is still in use on several impact printers which replaced the obsoleted HP models.
bullet PCL 3+ (mono) and PCL 3c+ (color) are used on later HP DeskJet and HP PhotoSmart products.
bullet PCL 3GUI is used in the HP DesignJet and some DeskJet series printers. It uses a compressed raster format that is not compatible with standard PCL 3.
bullet PCL 4 was introduced on the HP LaserJet II in 1985, adding macros, larger bitmapped fonts and graphics. PCL 4 is still popular for many applications.
bullet PCL 5 was released on the HP LaserJet III in Mar 1990, adding Intellifont font scaling (developed by Compugraphics, now part of Agfa), outline fonts and HP-GL/2 (vector) graphics.
bullet PCL 5e (PCL 5 enhanced) was released on the HP LaserJet 4 in Oct 1992 and added bi-directional communication between the printer and the PC and Windows fonts.
bullet PCL 5c introduced color support on the HP PaintJet 300XL and HP Color LaserJet in 1992.
PCL 6 overview

PCL 6 was introduced around 1995, and consists of:

bullet PCL 6 Enhanced: An object-oriented PDL optimized for printing from GUI interfaces such as Windows and compressed to optimize throughput. Formerly known as PCL XL.
bullet PCL 6 Standard: Equivalent to PCL 5e or PCL 5c, intended to provide backward compatibility.
bullet Font synthesis: Provides scalable fonts, font management and storage of forms and fonts.

PCL 6 Enhanced features new modular architecture that can be easily modified for future HP printers; faster return to application; faster printing of complex graphics; more efficient data streams for reduced network traffic; better WYSIWYG printing; improved print quality; truer document fidelity; and complete backward compatibility. In early implementation, HP did not market PCL 6 well, thus causing quite a bit of confusion in terminology. PCL XL was renamed to PCL 6 Enhanced, but many third party products still use the older term. Some products may claim to be PCL 6 compliant, but may not include the PCL 5 backward compatibility. PCL 6 Enhanced is primarily generated by the printer drivers under Windows and CUPS. Due to its structure and compression methodology, it is rarely used by custom applications.

PCL 6 Enhanced is a stack-based, object-oriented protocol, similar to PostScript. It however is restricted to binary encoding as opposed to PostScript, which can be sent either as binary code or as plain text. The plain-text commands and code examples shown in the PCL programming documentation are meant to be compiled with a utlity like HP's JetASM before being sent to printer. Perhaps because PCL 6 is designed for small size, operators are not as flexible or orthogonal as PostScript.

PCL 6 Enhanced is designed to match the drawing model of Windows GDI. In this way, the Windows printer driver simply passes through GDI commands with very little modification, leading to faster return-to-application times. Microsoft has extended this concept with its next-generation XPS format, and printer implementations of XPS are being developed. This is not a new idea: it is comparable with Display Postscript and Apple's Quartz, and is in contrast to "GDI Printers" which send the printer a compressed bitmap.


Home | Site Map | | | Contact | Blog
Copyright © 2002- Company. All Rights Reserved.