PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver? (146036 Views)
Occasional Advisor
Posts: 14
Registered: ‎04-24-2008
Message 1 of 7 (146,036 Views)
Accepted Solution

PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?


For most if not all HP printers there are 3 driver options available to download from their website, namely:


Each time I have the same problem - which to choose?

Can I assume that PCL6 is a development of PCL5? If so, why do they still offer PCL5?
If PostScript is the most fully featured driver, as I believe it is - why to HP offer PCL5 or PCL6 drivers at all.

I'm just a bit confused. If anyone can offer advive on this matter, I would be very grateful.

Many thanks.
Regular Advisor
Posts: 107
Registered: ‎02-11-2008
Message 2 of 7 (145,978 Views)

Re: PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?

my opinion:
pcl5 is the most widely available printer cmd language, it is almost *pure* text, so very easily programable from many os platforms, but i've seen last printers are no more pcl5 compatible 100%, or there is no pcl5 at all

pcl6 is somewhat advanced, but is compressed protocol, and somewhat buggy over network, so it is often told when having comm error over network printers to try pcl5 instead

postscript is often built into printers because postscript is previous very known print protocol. naturaly, when built into printer, hp also provide driver to it. there is not known any advantage postscript has over pcl when printning from win graphics interface. just in very rare cases somebody may try to avoid some problems with pcl switching to postscript

Honored Contributor
Posts: 2,941
Registered: ‎02-20-2007
Message 3 of 7 (145,978 Views)

Re: PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?


PCL5, PCL6 (aka PCL XL) are two of HP's languages for formatting pages on
a printer. PostScript (PS) is from Adobe, who also developed PDF which
is a sort of supercharged PostScript - in fact PostScript is a complete
programming language in itself.

Many HP printers including LaserJets (colour and B/W), InkJets, DeskJets,
plotters etc will have support for one or more of these languages.
Some other manufacturers actually use the HP's PCL5 and PCL6 because of
their popularity but many manufacturers other have their own languages.
Indeed I believe that HP's hostbased printers are based on the protocol
used by Minolta's Zenographics printers.

All the languages have advantages/disadvantages over each other such as
compactness, complexity and readability. The choice as to which one to
use is personal but sometimes unavoidable.

In my world (University Computer Science dept.) we use PS because lots
of utilities support it such as viewers, converters etc that the other
languages don't. It is also excellent for graphics which is a "bolt-on"
for PCL (called HPGL).
PS used to come at a price - it use to be the case that you had to pay
extra money to get PS but now its fairly standard on many printers and
indeed some HP printers will even print PDF directly.
PS is generally considered more resource hungry - it requires more
memory and is slower than PCL5/PCL6.
PS output files are usually larger than those generated for PCL5/PCL6
because it is plain ASCII, you can actually read it ; BUT communication
times (between computer and printer) used to be slower.
However, newer printers have faster processors, memory prices have fallen
and communication speeds are not an issue anymore with networking more
popular and faster speeds afforded by USB/USB2.
And there are things you can do things in PS that are simply impossible
in PCL5/PCl6 eg circular text.

PCL5 is tried and tested but is being marginalised. I guess HP see
PCL6 as the future and seem to be releasing more and more printers with
full PCL6 support but only partial support for PCL5. However, PCL6 comes
at a price too - because of its "structure" PCL6 seems to be prone to data
corruption due to poor cables or "noisy" environments. I have also noticed
many posting on this forum where people have had problems with PCL6
that disappear once they switch to one of the other languages.

So, in my humble opinion, I would always choose PS, then PCL5 then PCL6
in that order.

Hope this helps

Honored Contributor
Posts: 4,057
Registered: ‎06-04-2004
Message 4 of 7 (145,978 Views)

Re: PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?

I agree with almost all that Ken has told you, except:

(1) I prefer PCL6 to PCL5 (because it IS a highly structured language, and also because it doesn't require the HP-GL/2 subset of PCL5 to draw vector objects).

Ken is quite right in saying that bad cables etc. can corrupt this structure, leading to prints being aborted, or worse, whereas PCL5 will just soldier on the best it can (although you may still occasionally get pages of 'wingdings', etc, with corrupt PCL5).

(2) I thought that the JetReady language(s)
used on HP's host-based printers was a stripped down subset of PCL6 - but there may be several varinats.

Ken also mentioned that some printers directly support the printing of PDF files (without them having to be opened in a PDF reader and then transformed to a printer language stream via a print driver).

Microsoft now has its own 'almost' equivalent of PDF, known as XPS; it may be that, in the future, some devices will natively support this format as well.
Occasional Advisor
Posts: 14
Registered: ‎04-24-2008
Message 5 of 7 (145,978 Views)

Re: PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?

Dear Kennith, Chris and gsalai,

Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to reply.

I found your explantions very helpful. I've asked many people the differences between PCL5, PCL6 and PostScript, and never had a satisfactory answer, or really any answer at all.

Thanks again.

Honored Contributor
Posts: 2,941
Registered: ‎02-20-2007
Message 6 of 7 (145,978 Views)

Re: PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?


Check out the following page and be sure to look at the list in the left hand column for other PDLs too :-



Occasional Visitor
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎04-19-2014
Message 7 of 7 (111,714 Views)

Re: PCL5, PCL6 or PostScript driver?

PCL6 is better than PCL5 & PS throughly in all sides.

However, PCL5 & PCL6 are for office documents like word excel and power-point and image files like jpg gif but not much suitable for PDF files.

Off-course, PS (Post Script) drivers is best for PDF files but not much suitable for office documents and images files. You download Post Script Drivers from Adob site by searching Google.


Quick Speed for Office documents and Images use PCL6 (I RECOMMEND) or your choice PCL5 can be used.

Quick Speed for PDF files use PS Drivers (I RECOMMEND)


I hope it will help you.


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