What is Ghostscript?

There are various different products in the Ghostscript family; this document attempts to explain what they are, and how they are related.


Table of contents


What is Ghostscript?

Ghostscript is an interpreter for PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF) files. It is available both under the GNU GPL Affero license and for commercial licensing from Artifex. It has been under active development for over 20 years and has been ported to many different systems during this time.

Ghostscript consists of a PostScript interpreter layer, and a graphics library. Sometimes the Ghostscript graphics library is confusingly also referred to simply as Ghostscript. Even more confusingly, sometimes people say Ghostscript when they really mean GhostPDL.

Binaries for Ghostscript for various systems can be downloaded from www.ghostscript.com/download. The source code is included in both the Ghostscript and GhostPDL downloads from the same site.

What is GhostPDF?

GhostPDF is an interpreter built on top of Ghostscript that handles PDF files. Currently GhostPDF relies on extensions to the PostScript language/imaging model, and so cannot be used independently of the Ghostscript PostScript interpreter component. As such GhostPDF is an umbrella term used to refer to both these extensions and the interpreter code.

Many people (including the authors) frequently just refer to Ghostscript as supporting PDF and only specifically mention GhostPDF when wanting to make the distinction between the PostScript and PDF support.

GhostPDF is included in the Ghostscript binaries for various systems available from www.ghostscript.com/download. The source can be found in both the Ghostscript and GhostPDL downloads from the same site.

What is GhostPCL?

GhostPCL is an interpreter for PCL and PXL files. This consists of an PCL/PXL interpreter hooked up to the Ghostscript graphics library.

GhostPCL is available both under the GNU Affero GPL license and for commercial licensing from Artifex.

Binaries for GhostPCL for various systems can be downloaded from www.ghostscript.com/download. The source can be found in the GhostPCL/GhostPDL downloads from the same site.

What is GhostXPS?

GhostXPS is an interpreter for XPS (XML Paper Specfication) files. This consists of an XPS interpreter hooked up to the Ghostscript graphics library.

GhostXPS is available both under the GNU Affero GPL license and for commercial licensing from Artifex.

Binaries for GhostXPS for various systems can be downloaded from www.ghostscript.com/download. The source can be found in the GhostXPS/GhostPDL downloads from the same site.

What is GhostSVG?

GhostSVG is an interpreter for SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files. This consists of an SVG interpreter hooked up to the Ghostscript graphics library. This project has acheived proof of concept, but is not actively being worked on.

GhostSVG is available both under the GNU Affero GPL license and for commercial licensing from Artifex.

The source code for GhostSVG can be found in the GhostPDL archives on www.ghostscript.com/download.

What is GhostPDL?

GhostPDL (Ghost Page Description Languages) is an umbrella term for all the above technologies. As all the above interpreters are built upon a single graphics library, there are size and portability benefits to using two of more of the languages in a given project. A product that includes more than one such language in a single binary and automatically chooses between them is sometimes referred to as a "Language Switch" build.

GhostPDL is available both under the GNU Affero GPL license and for commercial licensing from Artifex.

The source code for GhostPDL can be found on www.ghostscript.com/download.

What is MuPDF?

MuPDF is an alternative PDF viewer/library also written by some of the Ghostscript developers and licensed under the same dual GNU Affero GPL/ commercial license scheme by Artifex.

Like Ghostscript, MuPDF consists both of an interpreter and a graphics library (sometimes called 'Fitz'). The name MuPDF is used both to refer to the PDF interpreter/viewer, the associated tools for manipulating PDF files and to the package of MuPDF and MuXPS together.

MuPDF itself supports only PDF, not PostScript, and none of the Ghostscript PostScript/PDF interpreter code is shared with MuPDF (except for certain self-contained decoder libraries, such as JBig2Dec).

Binaries for MuPDF for various systems can be downloaded from www.ghostscript.com/download. The source can be found on the same site.

What is MuXPS?

MuXPS is an XPS viewer/library, developed from the GhostXPS interpreter and the MuPDF graphics library. MuXPS is distributed as part of the MuXPS bundle, but can be separated from the PDF interpreter component of MuPDF if required.

Binaries for MuXPS for various systems can be downloaded as part of the MuPDF distributions from www.ghostscript.com/download. The source can be found on the same site.


PostScript is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems Inc.

PCL is a registered trademark of Hewlett-Packard Company.


Copyright © 2000-2012 Artifex Software, Inc. All rights reserved.

This software is provided AS-IS with no warranty, either express or implied. This software is distributed under license and may not be copied, modified or distributed except as expressly authorized under the terms of that license. Refer to licensing information at http://www.artifex.com/ or contact Artifex Software, Inc., 7 Mt. Lassen Drive - Suite A-134, San Rafael, CA 94903, U.S.A., +1(415)492-9861, for further information.

Ghostscript version 9.21, 16 March 2017