PCL to PDF for Windows and OS X/macOS

Summary | How use it | Acknowledgments | Support

A utility that converts PCL print files to PDF format

This page offers two almost identical utilities that create PDF output from PCL "print files." Both use GhostPCL by Artifex (released under the GNU General Public License) as the engine that performs the conversion. 

You may download WinPCLtoPDF (for Windows Vista or later) from this link. Unzip the application after downloading. (Note: Some antivirus programs mistakenly report that this application is unsafe, because the AutoIt scripting language that I used when compiling it has also been used for malicious programs. If you don't trust my software, please do not send me an e-mail asking for advice. Use someone else's software instead!) (If, and only if, you need to use this program under Windows XP, download this older version.)

You may download MacPCLtoPDF (for OS X/macOS 10.6 Snow Leopard or later) from this link. Launch the package file to install the application.

WinPCLtoPDF was written in AutoIt and compiled as an application; it contains a copy of GhostPCL, which is copied to your temporary-files directory and performs the task of generating the PDF output file. MacPCLtoPDF was written as an AppleScript application bundle which contains a copy of GhostPCL that generates the PDF output file.

The application is updated once or twice a year to incorporate the most recent version of GhostPCL. In October 2017, both versions were updated to use GhostPCL 9.22.

For information on the binary GhostPCL files used in these applications, see another page. Note that these versions include the support for Dark Courier described on the linked page.

How to use it

The Windows and OS X/macOS versions work in almost identical ways.

You may either drop a PCL, PXL, or PRN file on to the application icon, or launch the application and select a PCL, PXL, or PRN file from a standard file listing. Drop or select only one file at a time.

After a few seconds, the application will create a PDF file in the same directory with the original file, but with ".pdf" appended to the original filename. So, if you drop c:\temp\output.pcl on to the application, it will create c:\temp\output.pdf in the same directory. If the output PDF file already exists, you will be prompted to overwrite it; if you choose Cancel, the application will quit without creating a new output file.

If you want the newly-created PDF file to open in your default PDF viewer (typically Adobe Reader under Windows, or Preview under OS X/macOS), then change the name of the application so that it includes the letter "v", perhaps by adding the word "viewer" to the filename. For example, you might change the name to PCLtoPDFviewer or something similar, as long as it contains the letter "v". (Expert OS X/macOS users may edit the AppleScript application itself and change a setting near the top of the AppleScript instead of changing the name of the application.)

The application performs minimal error checking in order to determine whether the input file is in fact a PCL file. It may attempt to convert files that are not in fact PCL files; if so, simply delete the resulting PDF file if one is created. If you try to convert a file that does not conform closely to the PCL specification, the application will prompt you before continuing. Of course, if you try to convert a file that is not a PCL file, the resulting PDF will be useless.

Under Windows only, you may specify the name and location of the output PDF file by running WinPCLtoPDF from the Windows command line, as follows (if you omit the output filename, the program creates a PDF file with the same name as the input filename but with the extension .pdf):

WinPCLtoPDF c:\path\to\input.pcl c:\different\path\to\different\output.pdf

Also, under Windows only, you may add the command-line parameter  silent  at the end of this line to prevent the program from displaying a prompt when it encounters a non-standard PCL file. Alternatively, you may add the command-line parameter  batch  at the end of this line to prevent the program from prompting before it overwrites an existing PDF file or when it encounters a non-standard PCL file; use this parameter with caution because it overwrites the existing output file!


I could not have written this Windows version of this application without the help of many experts at the AutoItScript forum, and I could not have written the OS X/macOS version without the help of many experts at Macscripter.net.


I cannot help you with bugs or any other problems in GhostPCL. If you want to get in touch with me about anything else connected with these applications, please visit this page.

Edward Mendelson (em thirty-six [at] columbia [dot] edu, but with two initials and two numerals before the [at] sign, not spelled out as shown here).