Hewlett Packard Printer Command Language (Printer Languages)

Hp PCL or Hewlett Packard Printer Command Language was introduced by the Hewlett-Packard. It is independent of host system, device drivers, I/O interface, and network communications. Its purpose is to bring all HP printers together under a common control structure. HP used it in its first desktop laser printer. PCL is an Escape Code language. HP has been using this language for its dot-matrix and inkjet printers before the invention of laser printers. PCL commands are compact escape sequence codes that are embedded in the print job before being sent to the printer. PCL fonts quickly translate application output into high quality raster print images. PCL has several versions available.


PCL 1 was introduced in 1980. It is simple language having capabilities for basic printing. PCL 1 prints nothing but only text. Supported by all HP LaserJet series printers (except the HP LaserJet 3100 and 3150 series products).


PCL 2 added Electronic Data Processing/Transaction functionality. Supported by all HP LaserJet series printers (except the HP LaserJet 3100 and 3150 series products).


PCL 3 was introduced in 1984 with the original HP LaserJet. Released with the following printers:

HP LaserJet series printer,

HP LaserJet Plus series printer.

It provided the commands and features required for simple high quality word processing and data printing. Allowed for the use of a limited number of bitmapped fonts and graphics.

PCL 3 provided simple word processing and data sharing. It supported not only small bitmap fonts but also small bitmap graphic printing. Many other manufacturers emulate PCL 3 referred to as LaserJet Plus emulation. PCL 3 is still in use on several impact printers which replaced the obsoleted HP models. It does not support downloadable or scalable fonts. It is pixel based printer language that primarily describes images by pixel.


Released with the following printers: HP LaserJet Series II, HP LaserJet IID, HP LaserJet IIP, and HP LaserJet IIP Plus series printers.

Provided new page printing capabilities. Supported macros, larger bitmapped fonts and graphics. Introduced in 1985.

The LaserJet Plus printer was superseded by the LaserJet series II, also an 8 p.p.m. printer. The LaserJet II series of printers included the LaserJet IIP, a 4 p.p.m. personal printer, and the LaserJet IID, a duplex version of the LaserJet II. The LaserJet II introduced the PCL 4 language, which built upon PCL 3 by adding the ability to use more, larger bitmap fonts, and more bitmap graphics. The standard LaserJet II could manage just over half a page of bitmap graphics, but with the addition of some extra memory this could be expanded to a whole page.

PCL 4 was introduced on the HP LaserJet II in 1985, adding macros, larger bitmapped fonts and graphics. PCL 4 is still popular for many applications.

PCL 4 was backwards compatible with PCL 3 (PCL 3 jobs would print perfectly well under PCL 4), but the additional features took it well beyond the bounds of word-processing, and allowed it to be used for charts, graphics and simple desktop publishing. PCL 4 has been superseded for office printers, but is still commonly used in personal printers as it requires relatively little processing power in comparison with later versions of the PCL language. The version of PCL 4 used on the LaserJet IIP was a slightly enhanced over the version used on the standard LaserJet, and provided a compression method for bitmap graphics to reduce the amount of data which the computer had to send to the printer.