What is a PCL file and how do I open it?

What is a PCL file and how do I open it?

Why is it important for the end user to know what language his printer “communicates” with the system? The answer affects such simple and understandable parameters as “print speed” and “print quality” for the average consumer. This article will analyze the basic parameters of the PCL printer command language and explain how to work with PCL files.

What are PCL and PostScript?

A page description language encodes each part of a printed document into a data stream that can be sent to a printer. After the printer receives the page description language codes, the printer’s firmware converts the code into a pattern of dots that are transferred to the paper. Currently, two-page description languages have become the de facto standard in the computer industry – PCL and PostScript.

PCL is a printer command language, a format associated with printed digital documents. It is a format that describes the layout of text and graphics on the pages of a document. Files in this format can contain both vector and raster elements and a special, strict structure arranged within the document that allows you to create cross-platform sources for printing. HP LaserJet printers and some other printing devices use PCL.

PCL stands for Printer Control Language, and Postscript is often called PS. Both PCL and Postscript are widely used among many printer original equipment manufacturers. They are both interpretive, i.e., they translate various computer languages into a language that printers can understand. Although both serve the same function, they approach the problem from two different directions. PCL is device-dependent, which means it uses the printer’s power to do its job. PostScript is device independent; it performs its function without needing hardware support.

Most printer manufacturers have implemented support for both languages. These printers use the correct page description language depending on the document type. Switching languages is carried out automatically. But sometimes, you need to switch the language manually. You need to send a certain sequence of commands to the printer.

Pros and cons of PCL files

The biggest benefit of having a PCL-enabled printer is speed. Printing via PCL files is generally much faster than most other page description languages. If print speed is your main consideration, it is better to choose PCL-compatible printers.

While most popular operating systems support PCL files, using them for printing can cause minor problems when more than one device is used. For example, imagine that you are printing a certain image on a PCL-enabled printer. Now, if you want to print the same image on another PCL-enabled printer, you will see the difference. The reason for this again is that PCL uses the printer’s hardware to process images. Since the hardware of the two printers will be different, the final product will also be different. The quality of printed images will also vary depending on the quality of the printing equipment.

How to open a PCL file?

PCL files can be opened with the help of special utilities. The most used are:

  • OpenPCL Viewer
  • PageTech PCL Works
  • PageTech PCL Reader
  • CoolUtils PCL Viewer.

In addition, when using PCL files, the speed and print quality indicators depend on the device driver. Therefore, incompatibility between hardware and software components significantly affects the number of printing errors. In this parameter, PCL cannot be compared with the universal PS.

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