HPGL to PDF Conversion

By Contributor

Updated December 13, 2019


HPGL is the Hewlett-Packard graphics language used by HP-compatible plotters and laser printers to communicate with computer-aided drawing (CAD) software (Drivers needed to view three-dimensional HPGL files are no longer included in two-dimensional reader programs such as Word or Acrobat Reader, which cannot read them without a converter program). Software like Swift View can display HPGL files even if CAD software is not installed on the computer. This is accomplished by gathering data based on vector images (exact line drawings) rather than bitmap (dot-based) images. The HPGL file is copied by the software and then sent to the printer.


PDF is the portable document format (a successor to the PostScript Adobe language family) used to exchange and read documents on any computer running compatible software, much of which is free. You can use PDFs to display any kind of document, including CAD prints from plotters. Although PDF files can display a CAD drawing, the drawing itself cannot be imported directly from the computer drawing software (except for CAD files converted to Microsoft Visio drawings).


To read HPGL files in PDF format, use a PDF converter program like View Companion Premium. Alternatively, if you have Microsoft Office you can import HPGL or CAD files using AutoSet CAD Publisher. View the HPGL file in Quick Time Viewer, MS Word, or Microsoft Picture Viewer/Windows Photo Gallery. Mac users can also install View Companion to convert HPGL to PDF.

In Microsoft Office, simply "print to file" the HPGL image. To do this, open a Microsoft Office program you want to view the CAD drawing in, and then click on the File menu. Select Print. Click on the Printer Name list box, and then select a PDF converter program from the list, such as Cute PDF Writer. Click on the OK button. The PDF conversion software, using a "bounding box" feature, scales the drawing in the HPGL format, then renders the drawing to a suitable size for the PDF file format.

When you use freeware to convert your files to PDFs, the graphic quality is minimal by default. To change the image quality or layout, open the File menu, and then click on the Properties button. Hit the Advanced button (Layout tab) to display options for optimizing the PDF conversion in Cute PDF Writer. Click on the Print Quality label, and then change the print quality to a higher number of dots per inch (scroll down to 1200 dpi for complex drawings). For mirrored images to be output to the PDF file, click on the plus sign next to Post Script Options to expand the submenu. Click on Mirrored Output, and then select Yes from the drop-down list box.

To use the bounding box for scaling very large, complex drawings in HPGL form, click on the Postscript Output option. Select Encapsulated Post Script (EPS) from the drop-down list box. Click on the OK button in each window to begin converting HPGL to PDF format.