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Status of PCL6 in 2021

In 2021 PCL6 continues to be HP's fully supported and preferred printer language for enterprise and managed printers.The PCL6 documents shown below are valid for use by Independent Software Vendors.

Quick history

PCL6 (or PCL XL) was introduced around 1995 with the HP LaserJet 4000 series of printers. It came in these flavors:

  • PCL6 Standard: Equivalent to PCL5e or PCL5c, intended to provide backward compatibility.
  • PCL6 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.

PCL6 Specs

PCL6 document archive

PCL6 reference documents from 1998.

Zipped files attached at the bottom of this page:

  • PCL6 True Type library in the lxttlib.zip file
  • C++ files in the jetlib.zip file

PCL6 versions

Class 1.1

  • Draw tools: Support drawing lines, arcs/ellipses/chords, (rounded) rectangles, polygons, Bezier paths, clipped paths, raster images, scanlines, raster operations.
  • Color handling: Support 1/4/8-bit palettes, RGB/grey color space. Support custom halftone patterns (max 256 patterns).
  • Compression: Supports RLE.
  • Units of measurement: Inch, millimetre, tenth of millimetre.
  • Paper handling: Support custom or predefined sets of paper types, including common Letter, Legal, A4, etc. Can choose paper from manual feed, trays, cassettes. Paper can be duplexed horizontally or vertically. Paper can be oriented in portrait, landscape, or 180 degree rotation of the former two.
  • Font: Supports bitmap or TrueType fonts, 8 or 16-bit code points. Choosing character set uses different symbol set code from PCL 5. When bitmap font is used, many scaling commands are unavailable. When TrueType font is used, variable length descriptors, continuation blocks are not supported. Outline font can be rotated, scaled, or sheared.

Class 2.0

  • Compression: Added a proprietary JPEG compression called JetReady.
  • Paper handling: Media can redirected to different output bins (up to 256). Added A6 and Japanese B6 preset media sizes. Added Third cassette preset, 248 external tray media sources.
  • Font: Text can be written vertically.

Class 2.1

  • Color handling: Added Color matching feature.
  • Compression: Added Delta Row.
  • Paper handling: Orientation, media size are optional when declaring a new page. Added B5, JIS 8K, JIS 16K, JIS Exec paper types.

Class 3.0

  • Color handling: Allow using different halftone settings for vector or raster graphics, text. Supports adaptive halftoning.
  • Protocol: Supports PCL passthrough, allowing PCL 5 features to be used by PCL 6 streams. However, some PCL 6 states are not preserved when using this feature.
  • Font: Supports PCL fonts.
  • Viewer/Converter: Ghost PCL is an open source viewer for PCL5 or PCL6. (https://www.ghostscript.com/GhostPCL.html)

About PCL6

PCL 6 has three key components.

  • The first component, referred to as PCL 6 Enhanced has been optimized for printing from graphical user interfaces (GUIs) like Microsoft Windows and OS/2.
  • The second component referred to as PCL 6 Standard provides complete backward compatibility with past HP LaserJet printers.
  • The third component referred to as Font Synthesis provides scalable fonts
The PCL6 driver provides enhanced WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and enhanced performance with application support over the Standard driver. PCL XL is a new page description language by HP that is part of PCL6 and is closer to GDI, which many applications use. Less translation takes place by the driver, which means increased WYSIWYG capabilities and better performance with applications that support escapes sequences implemented by the enhanced driver.
The number of commands and data required to describe a graphics page is reduced. This helps the user to return to the application faster and print complex graphic pages in standard memory. By matching the graphics commands in the printer to the graphics interface of the GUIs, users experience true WYSIWYG for all pages.

An object-oriented printer language

The PCL 6 architecture uses object-oriented commands to communicate with the printer. Object-oriented commands are small, succinct bits of data that are used to tell a printer what to print on a page. Using object-oriented commands instead of long strings of code sequences dramatically improves performance for graphics printing, offers faster return to applications and reduces network traffic.

Improved performance

PCL 6 commands were designed by HP to closely match Microsoft Windows graphical direct interface (GDI) commands. As a result, users get improved performance and better print quality. For example, users will regain control of their PC and application sooner because PCL 6 allows the printer driver to translate GDI to PCL 6 faster than before. Network throughput will improve because PCL 6 uses smaller, more compact commands than previous versions used. Complex graphics will print faster because PCL 6 is specifically designed for graphics while gray-scale images, which are processed as objects, appear smooth and even, offering superior print quality for graphics and scanned images. Design consistencies between PCL 6 and GDI also yield better WYSIWYG printing.
Although PCL6 generates smaller file sizes in certain network configurations, the speed of today's host processors and networks may offset the performance benefits of having smaller file sizes.

Some customers stuck with PCL5

When PCL6 was introduced in 1995, some Independent Solution Vendors (ISVs) were reluctant to move away from their popular PCL5 solutions. To this day, PCL5 is still in use and some major applications like SAP continue to generate their own PCL5 data streams. However, HP no longer supports PCL5 software. PCL6 has become the new industry standard for enterprise printing. PCL6 is superior and more efficient.