Printer Command Language

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The Printer Command Language (often shortened to PCL) is a page description language, developed by Hewlett-Packard. As of 2011, most modern printers understand PCL. Its complexity is between pure ASCII text, such as in ESC-P, and for example Postscript. There are different versions of the language. Common versions:

  • PCL3, PCL3+: Can use raster description of fonts, grayscale, 300 dpi output maximum
  • PCL3c,PCL3c+: Supports color, in addition to PCL3/PCL3+
  • PCL3GUI: Allows compression of raster images, isn't compatible with other PCL standards
  • PCL4: Macros, bigger bitmaps, introduction of graphics
  • PCL5: Supports graphics in HPGL/2, fonts can be resized
  • PCL5e: Supports bidirectional communication with the printer, supports the windows fonts
  • PCL5c: Color version of PCL5e, supports different color palettes, and the option to select different colors
  • PCL XL later renamed to PCL6 enhanced: Allows compression to increase throughput. This is a stack-based object oriented programming language similar to Postscript
  • PCL 6 standard: Either PCL5e or PCL5c, for backwards compatibility
  • Jet Ready: Lowcost version of PCL XL. Only supports JFIF images. Allows to build printers without raster image processor, and without a lot of memory. The Rasterization is done in the computer, the printer only "prints images".

Except where stated, PCL versions are downwards compatible. A printer that supports PCL6 can also be programmed using PCL3, for example.

PCL is a very efficient way of coding. For this reason, certain manufacturers build high-volume printers that support different versions of PCL. Such printers can do more than 1000 pages per minute.