© Copyright 1999 HP Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein.

Current status of PCL5

The documents shown below are still valid (as of 2021) for use by Independent Software Vendors.

HP continues to support PCL5 in its enterprise and managed printer fleets, popular in large companies. However, HP has deprecated PCL5 software since PCL6 is clearly superior and more efficient. Some other companies continue to provide PCL5 software drivers.

Longevity of PCL5

PCL5 and 5e were replaced by PCL6 and 6e (for enhanced) in 1995. The PCL6 flavors were tuned up for printing from GUIs like Windows and OS/2. PCL6 Standard provided backward compatibility to PCL5. Since the introduction of PCL6, PCL5 has been riding the down escalator of technology, but many Independent Solution Vendors at the time were reluctant to move away from their PCL5 printing solutions. Major applications like SAP generated their own PCL5 print jobs. Implementations of PCL5 may still be echoing across the years. However PCL6 is recommended.

Quick history

  • In 1990 PCL5 was released on the HP LaserJet III. It added Intellifont font scaling, outline fonts and HP-GL/2 (vector) graphics.
  • In 1992 PCL5c (for color) introduced color support on the HP PaintJet 300XL and HP Color LaserJet.
  • In 1992 PCL5e (for enhanced) came out on the HP LaserJet 4, adding bi-directional communication between the printer and the PC and Windows fonts.

PCL5 specs

Differences between PCL4 and PCL5

These were the major enhancements of PCL 5 over PCL4.

Scalable Fonts
The PCL 5 LaserJet printers provide font scaling from .25point to 999.75 point, in quarter-point increments. All PCL5 printers contain the scalable CG Times and Univers type-faces in four treatments (and some contain even more type-faces); additional typefaces can be downloaded to theprinter or accessed by way of scalable typeface cartridges.

AutoFont Support (TFM Files)
AutoFont Support provides developers with an efficientmethod of reading LaserJet font metrics, for PCL 4 andPCL 5 devices; one driver can be written to cover all Laser-Jet printer fonts, eliminating the need to develop new driv-ers for every new font product. TFM files are distributed by HP for internal LaserJet printer fonts and are included asAutoFont Support disks with purchased font products.

HP-GL/2 Functionality
PCL 5 incorporates HP-GL/2 functionality that allows theprinting of HP-GL/2 vector graphics files. The HP-GL/2 im-plementation available in PCL 5 LaserJet printers providesfeatures not available in other HP-GL devices. (For exam-ple, access to high-quality bitmapped and scalable fonts, aswell as use of PCL fill patterns.) Raster graphics and vectorgraphics, as well as standard PCL text, can be printed onthe same page, providing a high degree of compatibilitywith many existing HP-GL/2 applications.

The LaserJet 4 printer adds even more HP-GL/2 features,including support for bezier curves, another fill type forfilling polygons (non-zero winding fill), and PCL-compatiblelabel origin. In addition, the LaserJet 4 printer, unlike theother PCL 5 printers, allows the use of HP-GL/2 commandsin macros.

Multiple Print Directions
The print direction can be specified as either 0, 90, 180, or270 degrees for applications that require multiple print di-rections, for both text and graphics, on a single page.

Raster Data Compression
The PCL 5 LaserJet printers have up to four raster datacompression modes to help increase performance and mini-mize disk space requirements for graphics-intensive applica-tions. The HP-developed FASST utility is provided(Appendix E) to help your application optimize the rasterdata sent to each LaserJet printer.

Print Model
The Print Model feature allows graphic images (includingfonts) to be filled with shades of gray or patterns. A com-mon use of this capability is for the printing of reverse type(white letters on a black background) and shaded or pattern-filled fonts. Another use is for creating special effects withimages by filling them with patterns or for overlaying multi-ple images.

Compressed Fonts (Bitmaps)
The PCL 5 LaserJet printers support font compression.(Font compression is discussed in the PCL 5 Printer Lan-guage Technical Reference Manual.)

Macro Cartridge Support
With the PCL 5 LaserJet printers, cartridges containingmacros can be plugged into the printer’s font cartridge slotsfor applications requiring quick access of forms, logos, letter-head, and frequently used graphics. (See Chapter 12 formore information about macro cartridges.)

PJL Support
The LaserJet IIISi, PaintJet XL300, and LaserJet 4 print-ers offer various levels of support for Hewlett-Packard’s Printer Job Language (PJL). The LaserJet IIISi andPaintJet XL300 printers provide base-level PJL support,which mainly features printer language switching. TheLaserJet 4 printer offers a more extensive set of PJL fea-tures, including status readback and the ability to set thecontrol panel from a remote location. PJL is discussed inChapter 2 and Appendix F of this manual, and in the PJLTechnical Reference Manual.

Additional PCL5 features in the LaserJet 4 printer

The LaserJet 4 printer was introduced with several additional PCL5 features. 

  • Variable Resolution—the LaserJet 4 printer offersresolutions of both 600 and 300 dots per inch. Text andgraphics are supported at both resolutions.
  • PJL Support—the LaserJet 4 printer supports 18 PJLcommands, providing capabilities such as statusreadback, remote control panel operation, control overdisplayed messages, language switching, and more. (This manual provides basic PJL information; see the PJL Technical Reference Manual for detailed information.)
  • Additional Resident Typefaces—the LaserJet 4printer comes standard with many scalable typefaces,including various treatments of CG Times, Univers, CG Omega, Clarendon Condensed, Coronet, Antique Olive,Garamond, Albertus, Arial, and Times New Roman.
  • Bezier Curves—additional HP-GL/2 features includesupport for bezier curves, another fill type for filling polygons (non-zero winding fill), and PCL-compatible label origin. Like the LaserJet IIIP printer, the LaserJet4 printer supports user-defined patterns for screened vectors and for filling polygons.
  • Units of Measure command—instead of using dots as a unit of measurement, the LaserJet 4 printer offers the Unit of Measure command, which affects all “dot” moves. This command allows you to select a PCL Unit size in specified increments from 96 to 7200 units/inch.
  • Number of Copies—like the LaserJet IIISi printer, theLaserJet 4 printer allows the number of copies to be set to any number from 1 to 32,767.
  • Page Size—the LaserJet 4 printer supports the B5 envelope size, along with four other envelope sizes andfour paper sizes.

Appendix A of the PCL5 Developers Guide shows the differences in support for PCL5 LaserJet printer features.