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HP PCL Printer Control Language

PCL 6 commands are typically binary and therefore more compact. However, PCL 6 lacks some features of PCL 5 and is closer to Windows GDI than a PDL. All PCL 6 printers also support PCL 5.

Quoting from the "PCL 5 Printer Language Technical Reference Manual"

Hewlett-Packard created the PCL printer language (simply referred to as "PCL" elsewhere in this manual) to provide an economical and efficient way for application programs to control a range of printer features across a number of printing devices

PCL commands follow a consistant specification with industry wide acceptance to control common printer features ranging from source paper tray selection, font and graphics layout, through macro recording and play back of common form elements

PCL 5 commands begin with the ASCII Escape character (decimal value 27, hex 1B, abbreviated as Esc) and end with the first uppercase letter. Some commands may be followed by binary data or data in another language. Esc ? ? # W were ? is any lowercase letter or symbol other than a numerical digit and # is zero or more numerical digits, typically indicates that the number of bytes indicated by # of binary data such as for an image, character or other bitmap will follow the W. Esc %0B is followed by a number of HP/GL commands which follow a different format.

Any text that is not preceeded by the Esc is printable text.

Esc *p100x200Y is an example of a common PCL5 command that positions the cursor at 100 units left of the upper left corner of the printable area of the page and 200 units down from the type. Coordinates are in the 4th quaderant. Notice that the value preceeds the parameter identification character. e.g. 100x is 100 units in the "x" or left direction. Esc *p100x200YHello will print Hello at (100,200).

Esc E is another example of a common PCL5 command. This command resets the printers internal state machine to known values and is commonly found at the start of a print job.

PCL5 print jobs often include other languages including PJL and HPGL

Other page description languages include PostScript, and ESC (injet printers).

With MS Windows, PCL fonts are "introduced" to the operating system and printer driver using:

Little known facts

HP documentation is available from HP, NOT from us!
See: $150 (CD or hardcopy?)
or $0 + shipping on CD


See also:

Please note: These questions have been answered because they are of general interest and do not cover topics that are propriatary. Not all questions can be answered and payment is expected for complex or valuable answers.



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