PDF to PCL Conversion

By Stephen Lilley


A PDF (short for "Portable Document Format) is a computer file format designed and released by Adobe. This file format is primarily used for exchanging documents from one computer to another, and is similar to an image in that it represents a digital, accurate and non-editable version of that document. A PDF file looks identical to the way it would look if you were physically holding the document in your hand. You cannot make any changes to a file while it is in PDF format. Adobe publishes free software called "Adobe Reader" that allows users to view a PDF file on their computers. This software can be downloaded at www.adobe.com.


PCL (short for "Printer Control Language") is a standard format used by Hewlet Packard laser printers. When you attempt to print a file, an HP laser printer (or any printer in general) cannot simply understand that file as-is. It must be converted from whatever file format it is currently in to a format the printer can decode and recreate for you. While it may sound complicated, luckily the process is mostly automatic. When viewing a document in a program like Microsoft Office or even on the Internet, once you attempt to print it, your computer converts it into PCL and sends it to the printer, which then prints the document.


To convert a PDF file to the PCL language it must be in, simply select the "Print" option from Adobe Reader while viewing the PDF. This will convert it to PCL and send it to the printer. If you do not want to print the document at this time, but want to have it easily accessible in the near future, you can print it to a file. By selecting the "Print to File" option under the "File" menu in Adobe Reader, this will create a .PCL file in whatever directory on your computer you choose. This will simply convert the document to the .PCL file format, at which point it will be ready to print whenever you need it. The whole conversion process takes just a few seconds, depending on the size of the PDF file and how many graphics are involved.