Thank you for your feedback

PCL or PostScript Recommendations and Other Driver Types

Document ID:FA787

Usergroup :External


Best driver; PS3; PCL6; XL; 6e; 5; Which driver to install; Recommended driver; Pros; Cons; Printer driver; Universal; U.P.D; Driver types



This article provides general guidelines that may help you decide between selecting a PCL or PS printer driver for your printing environment.

NOTE: It is impossible to provide a one-driver solution because of the many Page Description Languages (PDLs) available to software and application developers. It is wise to install both driver versions if you desire to have maximum control of your printer's performance capabilities.


In this article




Common printer driver emulations

 This article focuses on PCL and PS driver types, but you can see that other driver types are available for your printer. 

  • Printer Command Language (PCL)
  • PostScript (PS)
  • XML Paper Specification (XPS) – An emerging page description language. This driver type is the default standard driver in Windows Runtime (RT) and Windows 8 operating system environments. They are also known as V4 (Class) drivers. 
  • Host-based printing (HBP) – This driver may be identified by the lack of PCL and PS driver setting options. It will be most prevalent when performing a Standard* installation of an entry-level laser printer driver. 
  • Universal Printer Driver (UPD) PCL6, PCL5, and PS; click here for more information.

 * A standard installation prevents the selection of individual software components. You must choose the "Select components to install" option to allow the selection of the PCL or PS driver components. 

Printer driver recommendation table


Application/Content PCL XL PCL 5 PS3
  • All and any applications that utilize or generate Adobe PostScript file types; e.g., .ps, .pdf, .eps, .abr. .afm, .ai, .tal, among others.
  • Publishing applications
  • Color charts, graphs, clipart, and images
  • Complex graphics

Not optimal*

Not optimal*

Preferred driver (Reduced spool file sizes**)

  • Everyday text printing that does not contain PostScript or encapsulated PostScript fonts or images
  • Certain legacy applications known to utilize PCL
  • Applications that utilize HP-GL/2 vector graphics
  • Cross platform printing
  • Mainframe printing

Preferred driver

(Reduced spool file sizes)

Preferred driver (Reduced spool file sizes)

Not optimal*
Driver features
Driver fax N.A. N.A. Yes
Mirror image N.A. N.A. Yes
Scaling  N.A. N.A. Yes
Overlays Yes PCL 5e N.A.
Color matching N.A. N.A. Yes

 * Driver may perform with a larger spooled file size, but may trigger memory errors on the printer, or could affect computer or network performance if being used in a environment with many users. 

**Spool file size will increase if "Disable PostScript Passthrough" option is enabled for finishing options; e.g., tray selection, duplex, paper type selection, driver fax, mirror image, overlays, color matching and others. 

N.A. - Driver feature not available.

 Back to top

Printer performance factors


Printer characteristics

Overall (PCL and PS) effects
Faster RIP (Raster Image Processor) Reduced print time
Higher memory capacity Reduction in print time and reduction in number of memory errors


  • Regardless of driver emulation (PCL or PS), print speeds are determined by the performance of the computer, network, printer performance*, and the print-spool file size.
  • Graphics added to any job will increase the spooled file size of the print job and affect printer performance. Hence, any image, including fonts rendered as raster graphics, may impact overall printing performance.

* Network congestion (packet saturation); network bandwidth; printer processor speed; printer memory; spool file size and any concurrent functions being performed on the printer such as scan, e-mail, fax, copy, print or other software solution-based operations






Driver More Information Identification
Click here to learn more about PostScript.

Click here to learn more about PCL.

Universal (UPD) example

In-box driver (Custom, System)

PCL 5  (c, e)



Used to maintain compatibility with documents created for older printers or older applications.

  • Archived documents created before 1995
  • Legacy applications that uses older font sets
  • Documents that utilize HP-GL/2 vector graphics
  • PCL 6 (XL) may have issues printing mainframe-generated jobs that use the Microsoft Windows Print Manager.

Universal (UPD) PCL5




Good to know:


  • PCL version updates are cumulative. Hence, each subsequent update (version) contains both new commands and older PCL commands. In most instances, PCL 6 is typically backwards compatible with software that supports older versions of the language. 
  • A majority of all laser printers have language smartswitches, which can automatically detect both PCL and PS printer data streams regardless of driver used.
  • Lexmark PCL and PS smartswitches must be enabled for each data-receiving port on the printer. Failure to enable these smartswitches may result in flushing buffer (Offending command) or 900 (Raster Image Processor) errors.




Related articles


How to Select 'Automatic' Metafile Spooling to Reduce Spool Size and Speed Up Printing in Windows XP Point and Print (PnP) Environments

How to Disable PostScript Passthrough: Driver Finishing Options Such As "Tray Selection" and "Duplex" Failing with Adobe Products



Still Need Help?

If you require additional assistance, please see Contact information. NOTE: When calling for support, you will need your printer/model type and serial number (SN).

Please be near the products described in this article to expedite the support process and reduce call-back situations.

Back to top


Please enter the email address you would like to send a copy of this page to.