PCL5 or PCL6?

A comparison of PCL6 and PCL5 is given below:
PCL6 Advantages:
  • It has better WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) printing, improved print quality, Tuer document fidelity.
  • PCL6 is specially designed for graphics while gray-scale images, which are processed as objects, appear smooth and even, offering superior and fast print quality for graphics and scanned images.
  • PCL 6 commands are designed to closely match Microsoft Windows graphical direct interface (GDI). Users will regain control of their PC and application sooner because PCL 6 allows the printer driver to translate GDI to PCL 6 faster than before.
  • PCL6 commands are compiled before sending to the printer so network throughput will improve because of smaller and more compact commands. HP says that the data volume is 50 to 90 percent smaller than PCL5. Although PCL6 generates smaller file sizes in certain network configurations, the speed of today's host processors and networks may offset the performance benefits of having smaller file sizes.
  • It has complete backward compatibility (can be used for older printer models)
Version History:
Let have a look at the previous versions and history of PCL (Printer Control Language). PCL was was originally devised for the HP Dot Matrix and inkjet series printers. The first HP Laser Jet series printer was released in 1984 with the PCL 3 language. Other versions of PCL are:
PCL 5e: provides black & white printing.
PCL 5c: provides black white and color printing.
PCL 6: Provides black & white and color printing.
PCL Minidriver

PCL 5 and PCL 5e:
PCL5 was introduced with the HP Laser Jet III Series laser printer, somewhere in 1990. It was released to allow compatibility for industry acceptance for font scaling, outline fonts and HP- GL/2 (Vector) graphics. It was capable of printing more complex desktop publishing, graphic design and presentation applications. In addition to PCL 5, the LaserJet III series introduced the technique called "Resolution Enhancement", in which small dots are automatically placed at the edges of lines and characters to reduce the ragged edge sometimes visible on 300 d.p.i. prints.
The LaserJet III series was replaced by the LaserJet4 with PCL 5e, which introduced a higher printing resolution of 600 d.p.i., a fast bi-directional Centronics-type parallel port (Bi-Tronics) so that the printer can give more status information to the computer, and a selection of fonts dedicated to use with Microsoft Windows application software. It features a wider selection of fonts for use primarily with the MS Windows environment and applications. There are a few minor enhancements to PCL 5, resulting in PCL 5e (enhanced), primarily allowing the printer to talk to the computer to report status messages, errors etc.. The enhancements in PCL 5e do not have any significant effect on the page description functionality in the language. The LaserJet 4 series of printers includes the LaserJet 4 (600 d.p.i., 8p.p.m.), the LaserJet 4L (300 d.p.i., 4 p.p.m.), the LaserJet 4P (600 d.p.i., 4p.p.m.) and the LaserJet 4Si (600 d.p.i., 16p.p.m.). In addition to the basic range, all the LaserJet 4 range is available with the Adobe Postscript level 2 Page Description Language built-in in addition to PCL 5e, these models are designated by the letter "M" after the number (4M, 4ML, 4MP, 4SiMX). Today's PCL 6e is equivalent to PCL 5e.
PCL 5C (Color)
PCL 5c (equivalent to PCL 6c) is an enhancement to PCL5 to add functional color support for HP color laserjet printers. It offers no other changes except the commands needed to support for color printing. It is compatible with PCL 5 so it can also be used for mono-color (black&white) printing.
Main difference between PCL 6 and PC 5 is that PCL 6 commands are not transmitted as text but as small, succinct bits of data.
PCL Modes:
The PCL language has four modes or ways of specifying and using color:
• Black-and-White (monochrome) mode is the default mode so that backward compatibility with previous printers is maintained. When the printer is turned on it has a 2-entry palette containing the color white at index 0 and black at index 1.
• Simple Color mode is entered with the Simple Color command, which creates one of three fixed color palettes: A monochrome, two-entry palette with white at index 0 and black at index 1.
An RGB, eight-entry palette with the following colors starting at index 0: black, red, green, yellow, blue, magenta, cyan, and white.A CMY, eight-entry palette with the following colors starting at index 0: white, cyan, magenta, blue, yellow, green, red and black.
• PCL Imaging mode is entered with the Configure Image Data command that creates a programmable palette of aprogrammed size. This palette can be programmed using the color component and set index commands.
• HP-GL/2 Imaging mode is entered when HP GL/2 mode is entered and the initialize command IN creates a programmable palette that is shared between PCL and HP-GL/2.
 Any and all of the modes can be used on a page. For example, you could enter the Simple Color mode to print a headline and bar chart, PCL imaging mode to print a photographic image, and Black-and-White mode for the text on the page.

Printer Emulation

Emulator means someone who copies the words or behavior of another Synonyms. In computer sciences hardware, software or a combination of the two that enables a computer to act like another computer and run applications written for that computer is called emulator. In the past, it was often a hardware add-on that actually contained an instruction execution module for the emulated computer. Today, "emulator" more often refers to software, which provides a translation layer from the emulated computer to the computer it is running in. understand printer emulation, remember that a printer receives commands from the computer. These commands are in a specific printing language. Many manufacturers have developed printing languages but some of them have become industry standards. To meet the industry requirement manufacturers try to make their printers compatible with these de facto standards. PCL and Postscript are most popular languages and have become a standard, other manufacturers equip their printer according to the specifications of these languages. For example, while PCL was developed by Hewlett–Packard, it was widely copied by other manufacturers who offer emulations of HP printer. By the emulation of a HP printer another printer is able to understand PCL. If you are using an emulated printer, you may find “Laser Jet IIp compatible” or “PCL5 compatible” etc on it.
The term emulation especially applies to PostScript printers because Adobe itself does not produce printers and each PostScript printer produced by any manufacturer emulates PostScript. The term emulation also applies to printers that do not emulate the printer or the printing language of another manufacturer but that emulate another type of devices. For example some Laser printers have the ability to emulate other graphic output devices such as pen plotters. These printer emulate HP GL language which is used by pen plotters. In some graphic applications a plotter can take 30 minutes to print a complex drawing, while the draft output is produced from a laser printer in a few seconds. It is possible for designers to print a sample on laser printers and after finalizing the drawing it can be printed on plotter.
Adobe does not sell printers but it sells Postscript license to the manufacturers. Before Postscript Level 2, the license fees charged by Adobe were high, so some manufacturers tried to emulate the PostScript language. But nowadays license fees has been reduced and manufacturers prefer to use Postscript instead of emulated languages.

Printer Languages Types

Printer languages can be categorized into two types:

1. Page Description Language
2. Escape code language
Page Description Language
As its name describes, page description language (PDL) is a language that describes the appearance of a printed page in a higher level than an actual output bitmap. PDL's are high-level languages that specify the format of a page generated by a printer; they are translated into specific codes by any printer that supports the language. It is generally more versatile and allow more complex pages and graphics to be created. An overlapping term is printer control language. Usually PDL's are used for advance documents such as presentation materials, advertising brochures etc. Page description languages are normally used by software packages which produce sophisticated, highly formatted output, including graphics design programs, advanced word processing packages, spreadsheets with extensive charting capabilities, and desktop publishing packages.
Most commonly used PDL's are:
PDF, Portable Document Format by Adobe
PCL, Printer Command Language by Hewlett-Packard
PostScript Language one of the most noted page description languages, is a fully fledged programming language
Some PDL's are or have been made open standards. There are also other proprietary languages whose details are not publicly disclosed.
Escape code languages
Escape code languages are generally characterized by the structure of the commands they use, each command is prefixed by a special code (normally the escape code, hence the name) to signify that the following characters are a command, and not data to be printed.Printing from a windows application is very easy. Just open the File menu and select “Print” command. Windows operating system can be configured in different way with printer. Currently Novell Netware, PPR. IPP and Email printing are supported by Windows.
Escape code languages are suitable for simple documents and not good for complex pages like graphic design etc. They are less flexible than PDL. Simple documents such as letters, database printouts and document containing simple graphics can be printed with an acceptable printing quality. Most escape code languages do not offer sophisticated typographic features, they can use a range of different fonts but can print text in a limited number of sizes. They also can not handle special effects such as 3 D printing, printing text at an angel etc.
Disadvantages of Page Description Languages
a) Post description languages require a lot of processing power, so PDL printers format data more slowly than ECL printers.
b) PDL printers need more powerfull printer controller, with the result that most PDL printers are more expensive than escape code printers.
c) Some old applications can not use PDL printers. There must be an escape code language built into PDL printers to overcome this problem.
There are other languages which individual printer manufactur use. In some cases the manufacturers provide their own language to use with the printer. Manufacturer also wish to have their language adopted as the industry standard, but in the real world every language has its advantages and disadvantages. Each language has its own role in industry to meet different printing requirments. Sometimes none of these languages fulfils the user requirments so professional programmers are employed to create custom applications supporting unique features.
Kyocera PreScribe
Kyocera has its own manufacturer specific language. Kyocera uses Kyocera Prescribe in addition to HP PCL emulation. Prescribe is a good language for true type fonts. Mostly it is being used for minicomputer applications and applications using barcodes.
IBM IPDS (Intelligent Printer Data Stream) has more features for IBM mainframe. IBM introduced "Advanced FunctionPrinting" (AFP). AFP is a way in which complex documents can bedescribed on IBM mainframes and minicomputers, and is converted intothe IPDS print language by the operating system on the computer. IPDS does not support other manufacturer's drivers. User must have an IPDS comatible print to print a document. But some printer manufacturers provide IPDS emulation to make PCL or Postscript available to IBM systems. User has to use an external computer to use these emulations which translates IPDS commands into PCL or Postscript.