HP Printer Control Language (PCL) FAQ

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 for approx. $160.

  • PCL 1 and PCL 2 are obsolete. All later versions are superset's 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.
  • PCL3+, PCL3c, PCL3e, PCL3GUI, etc. (DeskJets) are used in the too numerous to mention DeskJet family of printers. These levels of PCL3 use inkjet printer-specific functions like Mechanical Print Quality (shingling), et al.
  • PageTech supports the PCL3GUI that is generated from Windows CE or mobile printer drivers and medical devices .

  • PCL 4 (LaserJet Series II): This version included more complex page formatting and functionality.
  • 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 vector graphics, transparency overlays and TIFF raster graphic compression method.

Printer Job Language (PJL) 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, Marigold, et al) and scalable TrueType (Arial, New Times Roman, Courier New, Wingdings and Symbol) typefaces, 2-byte characters, Raster Operations (ROP), bi-directional configuration and adaptive raster graphic compression method.
  • PCL 5J (LaserJet 4PJ): Added 2-byte character support for Japanese resident scalable fonts, various text parsing methods, vertical writing, Japanese paper sizes, galley characters, vertical substitution characters, typeface strings, character enhancements and vertical rotation.
  • PCL 5c (PaintJet/Color LaserJet): Added support for color text and graphics.
  • PCL 5Ce (HP 2500C) - Uses Agfa Microtype scalable typefaces.
  • 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.

    Initially, most PCL XL printers also included PCL5e as an alternate emulation for legacy applications. However, many of the newer laser printers from all manufacturers now only include PCL XL.

    The latest release is V3.0 and this printer control language is extensible. Various manufacturers have added proprietary extensions like HP's New JetReady raster compression method. PageTech exclusively supports JetReady.