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HP Printer Control Language (PCL)

Printer Control Language (PCL) FAQ

PCL Overview

The Printer Control Language (PCL) was developed by Hewlett-Packard for their laser printers and later for their inkjet printers. PCL is the most widely used printer language in the laser printer market. The full set of technical manuals covering PCL and PJL (Part#: 5010-3997) is available at HP (800)227-8164 for approx. $100 and/or you can join the HP ISV program at their web site. The various levels of PCL are as follows:

PCL 1 and PCL 2 are obsolete. All later versions are supersets of these earlier versions.

PCL 3 (LaserJet/LaserJet Plus): This version was created for office word processing functionality for high-quality 300 dpi office documentation. The DeskJet family of printers still use PCL3 and other variations of PCL3+, PCL3c, etc. which include inkjet printer-specific functions like shingling, et al.

PCL 4 (LaserJet Series II): This version included more complex page formatting functionality, such as:

PCL 4.5 (LaserJet Series IIP): A minor upgrade to PCL4

PCL 5 (LaserJet Series III): Added resident scalable Intellifont typefaces (CG Times & Univers), HPGL/2 graphics, transparency overlays and TIFF raster graphic compression method.

Printer Job Language (PJL) was added with PCL 5 as a method for switching parameters at the print job level and for status readback between the printer, front panel and host system. PJL is usually used at the beginning of a PCL print job for setting job specific parameters like printer language/emulation, resolution, number of copies, etc.

PCL 5e (LaserJet 4): Added more resident scalable Intellifonts (Coronet, Clarendon, et al) and scalable TrueType (Arial, New Times Roman, Courier New, Wingdings and Symbol) typefaces, ROP’s and adaptive raster graphic compression method.

PCL 5c (PaintJet): Added support for color text and graphics.

PCL XL or PCL 6 (LaserJet 5N): A completely different language based on Windows GDI functions. PCL XL is not upwardly compatible with earlier versions of PCL 1-5e.


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