Printer Command Language (PCL) Glossary

Glossary Term Definition Product Information
Advanced Encryption Standard ( AES )  Is a symmetric-key encryption standard adopted by the U.S. government. The standard comprises three block ciphers, AES-128, AES-192 and AES-256, adopted from a larger collection originally published as Rijndael.
All Points Addressability ( APA ) The ability to present text or graphics at any point on the output medium.
APA See glossary term All Points Addressability.
ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange. The character set used by personal computers to represent stored information. Represents a series of characters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols using a numeric value from 0 to 255. The key to the ASCII coding systems is that any of these characters can be represented using a single byte.
backfile conversion The process of converting historical documents, whether images from file cabinets or COLD Reports saved on host tapes, so that they can be used with a newly installed system. When no back file conversion is performed, the system is considered a “Day Forward ” solution.
bitmap A matrix of individual dots or pixels that makes up the graphic display. Each pixel (or picture element) corresponds to bits in the processor’s memory.
bitmap font A font which is made up of pixels (or square dots). Bitmap fonts typically work in tandem with outline fonts, with bitmap fonts being used on the screen, and connected outline fonts automatically used in the printer. Also known as a “screen font.” Bitmap fonts process fast but require a large amount of storage space and do not scale well to different sizes, hence the development of a different font technology called outline or contour fonts.
bitmapped Represented by a pattern of dots. A bitmapped graphic is described by specifying the placement of the dots that compose the graphic.
character recognition The identification and inputting of printed characters by automatic means. See glossary term magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) and glossary term Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
character set A finite set of characters that is considered complete for some purpose. The electronic font set contains the character graphics and their descriptions.
characters per inch ( CPI ) The number of mono-spaced characters in a specified font that equals the length of one inch.
code page A font library member name that gives the association between the code points and the character names in a font, the mapping from 8-bit character codes to graphic characters.
decollate The opposite of collate (as in sets of copies). The removal of carbon paper from multi-part forms.
Double-Byte character set - DBCS Single-Byte character sets (SBCS) provide 256 character codes. This is an adequate number to encode most of the characters needed for Western Europe. However, 256 character codes are not enough to represent all the characters needed by multi-lingual users in a single font, or by users in the Far East, where over 12,000 characters may need to be addressed at any one time. Consequently, Multi-Byte character sets (commonly known as Double-Byte character sets) are necessary. Double-Byte character sets (DBCS) are a mixture of Single-Byte and Double-Byte character encoding and provide over 65,000 character codes (2 to the 16th power).
downloadable font A font file that contains character descriptions that are copied from the computer and temporarily stored in the printer’s memory while a document is printing.
Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code ( EBCDIC ) Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code. A character encoding scheme, similar to ASCII, that originated with IBM mainframe systems. Still used by most IBM mainframe and mini-computer systems.”
EBPP See Electronic Bill Presentment & Payment (EBPP).
electronic bill presentment & payment
( EBPP )
The delivery of bills or statements in an electronic manner with associated payment occurring electronically.
Electronic Health Records ( EHR ) An electronic health record (EHR) (also electronic patient record (EPR) or computerised patient record) is a systematic collection of electronic health information about individual patients or populations.  It is a record in digital format that is capable of being shared across different health care settings, by being embedded in network-connected enterprise-wide information systems.
Electronic Medical Records ( EMR )  An electronic medical record (EMR) is a computerized medical record created in an organization that delivers care, such as a hospital or physician's office.  Electronic medical records tend to be a part of a local stand-alone health information system that allows storage, retrieval and modification of records.
electronic overlay Constant data for a page (such as a form) that is electronically composed in the host processor and can be merged with variable data on a page during printing. Electronic forms may also be created on PCs.
expanded A typeface with letters that are wider than the standard without visibly adding weight.
glyph A recognizable abstract graphic symbol which is independent of any specific design. A glyph is the final presentation form of one or more characters. For example, ‘f’ and ‘i’ are both characters (when used in a document) and glyphs (as included in a font). The ‘fi’ ligature is only a glyph.
HPGL Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language. Vector graphics file format developed by HP as a standard plotter language and used only in HP peripherals.
HP-GL/2 Enhanced version of HPGL that was added to PCL5
HP PCL Hewlett Packard Printer Control Language. See glossary term: HPGL/2 and PCL.
Intelligent Character Recognition ( ICR ) The optical character recognition systems capable of reading text regardless of typeface, style, or size.
Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMB) Postal Numeric Encoding Technique. The bar code system for encoding ZIP Codes on letter mail in the U.S.
JPG to PDF Option I of PCL Tool SDK has a industry exclusive dynamic link library (DLL) that converts PCL text and vector files into bitmap formats (in-memory TIFF Gp4, in-memory DIB, PCX, DCX, BMP, JPG, PNG, XPS, PDF and TIF); or into vector formats (in-memory GDI, PDF, PDF/A, WMF and EMF) with metrically matching TrueType fonts for those fonts in the PCL print file.
LaserJet PCL A family of laser printers from HP. Introduced in 1984 at a price of $3,495, the first LaserJet revolutionized the desktop laser printer market. LaserJets print from 600 to 1200 dpi, and PCL is HP's native printer command language.

LaserJets have built-in scalable fonts and also accept bitmapped fonts from the computer (soft fonts). They also offer PostScript emulation. Earlier models used plug-in cartridges, and PostScript was an option until native models were introduced in 1992 (LaserJet 4).

In 1994, HP launched its first color LaserJet, using an enhanced PCL 5 language. At $7,295, it printed 2 ppm in color and 10 ppm in black and white. Over the years, subsequent models gained much higher speeds with prices dipping below $1,000 after the turn of the century. By 2009, color LaserJets aimed at consumers dropped to $200.
legacy PCL See glossary term: legacy system.
Legacy System A legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program that continues to be used, typically because it still functions for the users' needs, even though newer technology or more efficient methods of performing a task are now available. A legacy system may include procedures or terminology which are no longer relevant in the current context, and may hinder or confuse understanding of the methods or technologies used.
Magnetic Ink Character Recognition ( MICR ) MICR, called "em eye cee are", "Mick-er", and "Miker" by some, is short for Magnetic Ink Character Recognition.

A special font called MICR E13B is the standard used on the bottom line of all checks and drafts processed in the U.S.A.
multi-byte character set Character sets that use multiple-byte encoding to access glyphs. See Double-Byte character set (DBCS).
Optical Character Recognition - OCR The electronic identification and digital encoding of printed or handwritten characters by means of an optical scanner and or specialized software.
OCR-A See Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
OCR-B See Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
OMR Optical Mark Recognition (OMR)
Optical Mark Recognition Single marks that are located on each page that can be read by insertion equipment.
outline font A printer or screen font in which a mathematical formula, rather than a bit-map, describes each character, producing a graceful and undistorted outline of the character that the printer then fills in at maximum resolution. It is made up typically of Bezier curves for PostScript fonts and quadratic splines for TrueType fonts. Outline fonts are scalable, unlike bit-mapped fonts, so only one outline is needed in the printer’s memory to produce any type size. Type 1 fonts and Type 3 fonts.
Page Description Language - PDL A computer language for describing how text and graphics should be placed on a page for display or printing.
parse pcl To analyze the operands entered with a command and create a parameter list in the command processor from the information.
PCL See Printer Control Language (PCL)
PCL 3 Introduced in 1984 with the original HP LaserJet. PCL 3 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 is still in use on several impact printers which replaced the obsoleted HP models.
PCL 3+ (mono) and PCL 3c+ (color) are used on later HP DeskJet and HP PhotoSmart products.
PCL 3GUI Used in the HP DesignJet and some DeskJet series printers. It uses a compressed raster format that is not compatible with standard PCL 3.
PCL 4 Introduced on the HP LaserJet II in 1985, adding macros, larger bitmapped fonts and graphics. PCL 4 is still popular for many applications.
PCL 5 Released on the HP LaserJet III in March 1990, adding Intellifont font scaling (developed by Compugraphic, now part of Agfa), outline fonts and HP-GL/2 (vector) graphics.
PCL 5c - PCL 5 Color Introduced color support on the HP PaintJet 300XL and HP Color LaserJet in 1992
PCL 5e - PCL 5 enhanced Released on the HP LaserJet 4 in October 1992 and added bi-directional communication between the printer and the PC and Windows fonts.
PCL 6 Introduced around 1995 with HP LaserJet 4000 series printers and features a new modular architecture that can be easily modified for future HP printers; faster return to application; faster printing of complex graphics; more efficient data streams for reduced network traffic; better WYSIWYG printing; improved print quality; truer document fidelity; and complete backward compatibility.
PCL 6 Enhanced - PCL XL An object-oriented PDL optimized for printing from GUI interfaces such as Windows and compressed to optimize throughput.
PCL 6 Standard Equivalent to PCL 5e or PCL 5c, intended to provide backward compatibility.
PCL Capture Monitor active directories and printer ports for batch converting PCL print streams quickly and transparently.
PCL Codes Easily convert PCL into readable text for analysis and debugging
PCL Conversion PCL Tool SDK converts all levels of HP PCL print files composed of text, font, line and raster data into bitmap (PDF, PDF/A, TIF, JPG, XPS, BMP, PNG, PCX, DCX and other formats) or vector (PDF, PDF/A, XPS, WMF, EMF, and Raw EMF) format files with metrically matching TrueType fonts for those used to create PCL print files.
PCL ESC Sequences
PCL font One complete collection of letters, punctuation marks, numbers, and special characters in a single typeface, weight (Roman or bold), posture (upright or italic) and –for bitmapped fonts– point size, such as 12-point Helvetica italic. A font family is a set of fonts in several sizes and weights that share the same typeface, such as Helvetica bold 10, Helvetica Roman 12, etc. A font is an implementation of a typeface design in any medium. In the days of metal type, the implementation was, necessarily, a single point size. In the current digital era, an implementation is a set of outline-format characters that are infinitely scalable, and therefore not limited to a particular point size. For example, it is correct to say that type designers design a typeface (not a font), and hint information is encoded in the font (not the typeface). There is obviously some overlap here: you can say, for example, that the font — or the typeface — seen on the screen is Garamond. But there are many situations where it is appropriate to use typeface to refer to the design, and font to refer to any given implementation of the design. See glossary term typeface.
PCL font family All the type sizes and styles of one typeface. A complete character set of a font. The group shares a common design but can differ in attributes such as character width, weight, and posture (i.e. Roman vs. Italic). A typical computer family unit frequently contains four fonts–Roman, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic–in all sizes.
PCL form overlay A process utilized in ERM systems and COM to recreate the look of an original document by laying a form over the associated text. Examples include: invoices, purchase orders, and statements.
pcl overlay 1. To repeatedly use the same area of internal memory for bringing routines into memory from bulk storage. 2. A transparent sheet used in preparing for multicolor printing. Can either be a physical one (photographic negative plate which causes a form to appear) or an electronic form using OGL or Forms Description Language(FDL).
PCL Print PCLPrint.exe is a console program that converts PCL into an in-memory DIB-Raster or GDI-vector/text page image and then renders it to a printer device context. It is commonly called from our Port Monitor’s Redirector program (Rdest.exe) and passes the captured spool file intended for a PCL printer.
pcl rasterizer Software that converts outline font characters into bitmap characters for imaging on a raster device such as a computer monitor or laser printer.
PCL to PDF PCL Tool SDK's PCL to PDF transformation technology is available in three configurations…
PCL to Text PCL Tool SDK can extract text from applications that generate legacy or complex PCL print streams. It can de-construct old style mainframe-generated bank statements with cancelled check images into text and individual TIFF images of each cancelled check image. We not only capture the text, we capture the absolute positioning, the current symbol set, font and font metrics in use at that point in the file.
PCL to TIFF Option I of the PCL Tool SDK has a industry exclusive dynamic link library (DLL) that converts PCL text and vector files into bitmap formats (in-memory TIFF Gp4, in-memory DIB, PCX, DCX, BMP, JPG, PNG, XPS, PDF and TIF); or into vector formats (in-memory GDI, PDF, PDF/A, WMF and EMF) with metrically matching TrueType fonts for those fonts in the PCL print file.
PCL Viewer PCL Reader provides end users the ability to view, extract/normalize and print HP® PCL print files.  This allows users to print PCL on any non_PCL printer, like inkjet, GDI or even PCL XL-only printers.
PCL XL PCL XL aka "PCL 6 enhanced" is a superset of PCL6 and is designed too offer near PostScript quality. Because of too much quality improvements, it is not compatible with PCL5 printers.
Portable Document Format - PDF Portable Document Format (PDF) is an open standard for document exchange. This file format, created by Adobe Systems in 1993, is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it.
PDF Printer Driver The new industry-exclusive PageTech PCLMagic printer drivers now included with PCL Tool SDK, embed searchable text into the PCL print stream before the printer driver generates it, saving all the text in its natural unscrambled state.
PDL See Print Description Language (PDL) and Page Description Language (PDL).
print description language - PDL A formatting language that describes pages of text and graphics and reproduces the descriptions on a printer or other output device.
print spool The space (usually on disk) used by a spooler to store jobs, or the collection of jobs waiting to be executed or printed.
print spooler Software that is part of a variety of computer and printing systems that holds files in the print queue and prints them in a specified order.
Printer Control Language - PCL The most commonly used page description language. Also called HPPCL (Hewlett Packard Printer Control Language).
Printer Job Language - PJL Is a method developed by Hewlett-Packard for switching printer languages at the job level, and for status readback between the printer and the host computer. PJL adds job level controls, such as printer language switching, job separation, environment, status readback, device attendance and file system commands.
PRN to PDF Typically, .prn is the file extention used by Windows for programs that "print to file" their content. The real content behind the .prn file will vary from: PCL, PostScript, all flavors, HP/GL, ESC/P, ESC/P2,…you name it.  Developers using PCL Tool SDK can
raster image processor - RIP A device or program that translates the instructions for a page in a page-description or graphics output language to the actual pattern of dots supplied to a printing or display system.
redaction A method of concealing parts of an electronic image or document from view.
rendering pcl The actual placement of rasterized pixels on the monitor’s display. Refers both to graphic objects and type, particularly for fonts using hints. Also called rasterization.
RIP See raster image processor (RIP)
Searchable PDF Searchable PDF is a PDF document with the addition of a text layer beneath the image. This approach retains the look of the original page while enabling text searchability.
text extraction PCL Tool SDK can extract text from applications that generate legacy or complex PCL print streams. It can de-construct old style mainframe-generated bank statements with cancelled check images into text and individual TIFF images of each cancelled check image. We not only capture the text, we capture the absolute positioning, the current symbol set, font and font metrics in use at that point in the file.
TrueType A scalable outline font format developed by Apple Computers and adopted by Microsoft. These fonts can be used for both the screen display and printing, thereby eliminating the need to have two font files for each typeface.
typeface The design of a collection of characters (or glyphs) that are united by a recognizable design theme. For example, the typeface Times Roman Bold is a single typeface, and is a recognizable design regardless of whether it is implemented in metal, film, or as digital type. Contrast with the term, “font,” which refers to the implementation of the typeface, not the design. Often named after a designer, a typeface or “face” (e.g., Goudy Oldstyle) is an interpretation of a character set that shares a similar appearance and design. The character set includes letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols. On computers,”typeface” is used interchangeably with the term “font.” See PCL font.
typeface family A collection of typefaces whose design includes common design elements such that the various styles relate in a harmonious way.
Unicode A two-byte character code used to represent characters for languages that have more symbols than the ASCII character code can represent. Because it is a two-byte code, Unicode can represent up to 65,536 characters. The storage overhead is twice as large as it is with ASCII, which uses one byte per character. Unicode is generally only used in international applications that require more than 255 characters. Unicode is now a subset of ISO 10646.  See UTF-8
UTF-8 Encoding UTF-8 (UCS Transformation Format — 8-bit is a multibyte character encoding for Unicode. Like UTF-16 and UTF-32, UTF-8 can represent every character in the Unicode character set. Unlike them, it is backward-compatible with ASCII and avoids the complications of endianness and byte order marks (BOM).

PCL to PDF Products

PCL to PDF Transformation products for Developers, Systems Integrators and MIS departments.


PCLTool SDK converts complex PCL into PDF, PDF/A, XPS, TIF, BMP, JPG, PNG, WMF, and EMF.

PCLWorks Program - PCL to PDF

PCLWorks Program provides a Subset of Essential PCLTool SDK GUI-Only Programs that can view, convert, print, debug, and analyze PCL Printstreams.

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