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Linux / Unix Command: ghostscript
Command Library


gs - Ghostscript (PostScript and PDF language interpreter and previewer)  


gs [ options ] [ files ] ... (Unix, VMS)
gswin32 [ options ] [ files ] ... (MS Windows)
gswin32c [ options ] [ files ] ... (MS Windows)
gs386 [ options ] [ files ] ... (DOS for PC)
gsos2 [ options ] [ files ] ... (OS/2)  


The gs (gswin32, gswin32c, gs386, gsos2) command invokes Ghostscript, an interpreter of Adobe Systems' PostScript(tm) and Portable Document Format (PDF) languages. gs reads "files" in sequence and executes them as Ghostscript programs. After doing this, it reads further input from the standard input stream (normally the keyboard), interpreting each line separately. The interpreter quits gracefully when it encounters the "quit" command (either in a file or from the keyboard), at end-of-file, or at an interrupt signal (such as Control-C at the keyboard).

The interpreter recognizes several switches described below, which may appear anywhere in the command line and apply to all files thereafter. Invoking Ghostscript with the -h or -? switch produces a message which shows several useful switches, all the devices known to that executable, and the search path for fonts; on Unix it also shows the location of detailed documentation.

Ghostscript may be built able to use many different output devices. To see which devices your executable can use, run "gs -h". Unless you specify a particular device, Ghostscript normally opens the first one of those and directs output to it, so if the first one in the list is the one you want to use, just issue the command

        gs myfile.ps

You can also check the set of available devices from within Ghostscript: invoke Ghostscript and type

        devicenames ==

but the first device on the resulting list may not be the default device you determine with "gs -h". To specify "AbcXyz" as the initial output device, include the switch


For example, for output to an Epson printer you might use the command

        gs -sDEVICE=epson myfile.ps

The "-sDEVICE=" switch must precede the first mention of a file to print, and only the switch's first use has any effect. Alternatively, in Ghostscript you can type

        (epson) selectdevice
        (myfile.ps) run

All output then goes to the printer until you select another device with the "selectdevice" procedure in the PostScript program stream, for example

        (vga) selectdevice
        (x11) selectdevice

Finally, you can specify a default device in the environment variable GS_DEVICE. The order of precedence for these alternatives from highest to lowest (Ghostscript uses the device defined highest in the list) is:

        (command line)
        (first device in build list)

Some printers can print at different resolutions (densities). To specify the resolution on such a printer, use the "-r" switch:

        gs -sDEVICE=<device> -r<xres>x<yres>

For example, on a 9-pin Epson-compatible printer, you get the lowest-density (fastest) mode with

        gs -sDEVICE=epson -r60x72

and the highest-density (best output quality) mode with

        gs -sDEVICE=epson -r240x72.

If you select a printer as the output device, Ghostscript also allows you to choose where Ghostscript sends the output -- on Unix systems, usually to a temporary file. To send the output to a file "foo.xyz", use the switch


You might want to print each page separately. To do this, send the output to a series of files "foo1.xyz, foo2.xyz, ..." using the "-sOutputFile=" switch with "%d" in a filename template:


Each resulting file receives one page of output, and the files are numbered in sequence. "%d" is a printf format specification; you can also use a variant like "%02d".

On Unix systems you can also send output to a pipe. For example, to pipe output to the "lpr" command (which, on many Unix systems, directs it to a printer), use the switch


You can also send output to standard output for piping with the switch


In this case you must also use the -q switch, to prevent Ghostscript from writing messages to standard output.

To select a specific paper size, use the command line switch


for instance


At this time, the known paper sizes, defined in the initialization file "gs_statd.ps", are:

PAPERSIZEX inchesY inchesX cmY cm


Note that the B paper sizes are ISO sizes: for information about using JIS B sizes, see Use.htm.

Ghostscript can do many things other than print or view PostScript and PDF files. For example, if you want to know the bounding box of a PostScript (or EPS) file, Ghostscript provides a special "device" that just prints out this information:

        gs -sDEVICE=bbox myfile.ps

For example, using one of the example files distributed with Ghostscript,

        gs -sDEVICE=bbox golfer.ps

prints out

        %%BoundingBox: 0 25 583 732
        %%HiResBoundingBox: 0.808497 25.009496 582.994503 731.809445


When looking for the initialization files "gs_*.ps", the files related to fonts, or the file for the "run" operator, Ghostscript first tries to open the file with the name as given, using the current working directory if no directory is specified. If this fails, and the file name doesn't specify an explicit directory or drive (for instance, doesn't contain "/" on Unix systems or "\" on DOS systems), Ghostscript tries directories in this order:
the directories specified by the -I switches in the command line (see below), if any;
the directories specified by the GS_LIB environment variable, if any;
the directories specified by the GS_LIB_DEFAULT macro in the Ghostscript makefile when the executable was built. When gs is built on Unix, GS_LIB_DEFAULT is usually "/usr/local/share/ghostscript/#.##:/usr/local/share/ghostscript/fonts" where "#.##" represents the Ghostscript version number.

Each of these (GS_LIB_DEFAULT, GS_LIB, and -I parameter) may be either a single directory or a list of directories separated by ":".  


Ghostscript looks for the following resources under the program name "Ghostscript":
The border width in pixels (default = 1).
The name of the border color (default = black).
The window size and placement, WxH+X+Y (default is NULL).
The number of x pixels per inch (default is computed from WidthOfScreen and WidthMMOfScreen).
The number of y pixels per inch (default is computed from HeightOfScreen and HeightMMOfScreen).
Determines whether backing store is to be used for saving display window (default = true).

See the usage document for a more complete list of resources. To set these resources on Unix, put them in a file such as "~/.Xresources" in the following form:

        Ghostscript*geometry:    612x792-0+0
        Ghostscript*xResolution: 72
        Ghostscript*yResolution: 72

Then merge these resources into the X server's resource database:

        % xrdb -merge ~/.Xresources


-- filename arg1 ...
Takes the next argument as a file name as usual, but takes all remaining arguments (even if they have the syntactic form of switches) and defines the name "ARGUMENTS" in "userdict" (not "systemdict") as an array of those strings, before running the file. When Ghostscript finishes executing the file, it exits back to the shell.

Define a name in "systemdict" with the given definition. The token must be exactly one token (as defined by the "token" operator) and may contain no whitespace.

Define a name in "systemdict" with value=null.

Define a name in "systemdict" with a given string as value. This is different from -d. For example, -dname=35 is equivalent to the program fragment
       /name 35 def

whereas -sname=35 is equivalent to
       /name (35) def
Quiet startup: suppress normal startup messages, and also do the equivalent of -dQUIET.
Equivalent to -dDEVICEWIDTH=number1 and -dDEVICEHEIGHT=number2. This is for the benefit of devices (such as X11 windows) that require (or allow) width and height to be specified.

Equivalent to -dDEVICEXRESOLUTION=number1 and -dDEVICEYRESOLUTION=number2. This is for the benefit of devices such as printers that support multiple X and Y resolutions. If only one number is given, it is used for both X and Y resolutions.
Adds the designated list of directories at the head of the search path for library files.
This is not really a switch, but indicates to Ghostscript that standard input is coming from a file or a pipe and not interactively from the command line. Ghostscript reads from standard input until it reaches end-of-file, executing it like any other file, and then continues with processing the command line. When the command line has been entirely processed, Ghostscript exits rather than going into its interactive mode.

Note that the normal initialization file "gs_init.ps" makes "systemdict" read-only, so the values of names defined with -D, -d, -S, or -s cannot be changed (although, of course, they can be superseded by definitions in "userdict" or other dictionaries.)  


Disables the "deletefile" and "renamefile" operators and the ability to open files in any mode other than read-only. This is desirable for spoolers or any other environments where a malicious or badly written PostScript program must be prevented from changing important files.
Causes Ghostscript to exit after processing all files named on the command line, rather than prompting for further PostScript commands.
Disables the prompt and pause at the end of each page. This may be desirable in converting documents or for applications where another program is driving Ghostscript.
Selects an alternate initial output device, as described above.
Selects an alternate output file (or pipe) for the initial output device, as described above.
Suppresses the normal initialization of the output device. This may be useful when debugging.
Disables character caching. Useful only for debugging.
Disables the "bind" operator. Useful only for debugging.
Disables the use of fonts supplied by the underlying platform (for instance X Windows). This may be needed if the platform fonts look undesirably different from the scalable fonts.
Causes individual character outlines to be loaded from the disk the first time they are encountered. (Normally Ghostscript loads all the character outlines when it loads a font.) This may allow loading more fonts into RAM, at the expense of slower rendering.
Leaves "systemdict" writable. This is necessary when running special utility programs such as font2c and pcharstr, which must bypass normal PostScript access protection.



The various Ghostscript document files (above), especially Use.htm.  

Important: Use the man command (% man) to see how a command is used on your particular computer.

>> Linux/Unix Command Library

>> Shell Command Library

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