Understanding PCL and its Important Benefits

Posted September 25, 2014

2014-09-25_0930Integrating printers into existing network environments is often a challenging endeavor, even for the most experienced information systems specialists. Thermal printers equipped with PCL makes the job fast and easy.

When Datamax-O’Neil set out to design its Performance Series thermal transfer printers for the retail, hospitality, healthcare, distribution, warehousing, manufacturing, transportation, public service, government and financial industries, it focused on improving overall print quality and end-user experience.

The printers’ 300 dpi print heads and full-color, LCD touch displays have turned heads in the marketplace since being introduced in 2011; but their greatest improvement lies not in what’s on the outside, but in the ground-breaking application of standard printer languages and open-source software development modules that give technology administrators freedom to define how the printers will operate within their organizations.

Information technologists charged with managing and maintaining extensive printer networks within global enterprises will appreciate the flexibility they now have at their fingertips to extend the value of their printer networks to save employees time and money.

Why is PCL a Differentiator?

Unlike most technology solutions, thermal printers have not used an open standard programming language for communication and print control. Printer manufacturers developed their own proprietary languages because it was easy to develop, required a minimal investment to enter the market and there were no incentives to standardize a printer language in the thermal printing industry.

Over the years, the lack of a standard printer language in the thermal printing industry has created a number of problems for system integrators, among them:

  • keeping administrators locked into one printer manufacturer for their printing needs
  • preventing companies’ IT infrastructure from evolving due to slower advances in thermal printing technology
  • requiring staff to learn many different proprietary languages
  • incurring higher costs to maintain existing applications
  • having no portability of label template libraries
  • having limited or no support for international labels

PCL: The “De Facto” Industry Standard Printer Language

In 1984, Hewlett-Packard introduced printer control language (PCL) to provide an open, economical and efficient language for application programs to control a range of printer features across a number of printing devices. PCL is a command based language using control sequences that are processed and interpreted in the order they are received. At the consumer level, PCL data streams are generated by a print driver.

PCL output can also be easily generated by custom applications. Today, PCL is the “de facto industry standard” printer language.

PCL commands follow consistent specifications to control common printer features: font and graphics layout, label macro management, rendering, and label resolution. These commands operate independently of the underlying hardware resolution specifications for the printer. By keeping operation and resolution commands separate, administrators have the flexibility to create open-architecture environments that maximize the printer’s technology and improve the end user experience…saving organizations both time and money.

Advantages of PCL5 on a thermal printer:

  • PCL communicates with virtually all computer systems, which makes it the ideal language to adopt in the thermal printing industry.
  • PCL extends the functionality of thermal printers by offering an expansive menu of feature commands not found in thermal printers. These commands open the way for the thermal printing industry to develop new and exciting applications.
  • PCL gives system administrators flexibility to customize and integrate thermal printing into a variety of hosted environments.
  • PCL allows for seamless integration of international language capabilities including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

For further assistance finding how a PCL capable Datamax printer can help your operations, contact us at Barcodes Inc.

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