HP Developers Portal | HP Printer Command Languages (PCL)

Question: Is your office software not printing on home printers?

To escape the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of office workers took their company laptops and enterprise software home with them. Some enterprise software won't print to home inkjet printers, which employ HP's proprietary PCL3GUI spec.

If you have had this problem, please go to HP's Smart Universal Printing Driver page:  hp.com/go/smartupd


PCL specifications

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PCL documentation

PCL tools

  • JetASM tool for assembling and disassembling PCL5 and PCL6


Evolution of HP PCL

Printer Command Languages (PCLs) govern how printers work. The PCL language was developed by Hewlett-Packard as a printer protocol for the early inkjet printers in 1984. PCL has since become a de facto industry standard so that software can print successfully to any brand of printer. 

The PCL printer language has evolved through six major levels, driven by improvements in printer technology, improvements in application software, and changing user needs.

Evolution of PCL languages
PCL1 Print and Space functionality is the base set of functions provided for simple, convenient, single-user workstation output.
PCL2 EDP (Electronic Data Processing) /Transaction functionality is a superset of PCL 1. Functions were added for general purpose, multi-user system printing.

Office Word Processing functionality is a superset of PCL 2. Functions were added for high-quality, office document production.

PCL3GUI remains proprietary. HP uses it in the HP DeskJet series printers and DesignJet larger format printers (plotters).

PCL4 Page Formatting functionality is a superset of PCL 3. Functions were added for new page printing capabilities.
PCL5 Office Publishing functionality is a superset of PCL 4. New publishing capabilities include font scaling and HP-GL/2 graphics.



Oject-oriented PDL optimized for printing from GUI interfaces such as Windows and compressed to optimize throughput.


The PCL entry in Wikipedia adds dates, printer models, and technical details to this evolution.

  • 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). Print and Space was the base function set for single-user output.
  • PCL 1+ was released with the HP QuietJet 2227.
  • PCL 2 - Electronic Data Processing added general-purpose multi-user system printing. 
  • PCL 3 - 
    • PCL 3 was introduced in 1984 with the original HP LaserJet. Office Word Processing added high-quality office documentation, starting with the DeskJet 5xx printers. 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+ (mono) and PCL 3c+ (color) are used on later HP DeskJet and HP PhotoSmart products.
    • PCL 3GUI remains proprietary. It uses a compressed raster format that is not compatible with standard PCL 3.
  • PCL 4 was introduced on the HP LaserJet 2 series in 1985, adding page formatting with advanced page printing capabilities, including macros, and larger bitmapped fonts and graphics.
  • PCL5
    • PCL 5 was released on the HP LaserJet III[2] in March 1990, adding Intellifont font scaling (developed by Compugraphic, now part of Agfa), outline fonts and HP-GL/2 (vector) graphics.
    • PCL 5e (PCL 5 enhanced) was released on the HP LaserJet 4[2] in October 1992 and added bi-directional communication between the printer and the PC and Windows fonts.
    • PCL 5c introduced color support on the HP PaintJet 300XL and HP Color LaserJet[2] in 1992.
  • PCL6
    • PCL 6 introduced around 1995 with the HP LaserJet 4000 series printers.[3]
    • PCL 6 Standard: Equivalent to PCL 5e or PCL 5c, intended to provide backward compatibility.
    • PCL 6e (enhanced): An object-oriented PDL optimized for printing from GUI interfaces such as Windows and compressed to optimize throughput.
      Formerly known as PCL XL or PXL.
    • Font synthesis: Provides scalable fonts, font management and storage of forms and fonts.