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 __

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


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

  • sDEVICE=!AbcXyz?

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

gs -sDEVICE=epson


(epson) selectdevice

( run All output then goes to the printer until you select another device with the

(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) GS_DEVICE (first device in build list) Some printers can print at different resolutions (densities). To specify the resolution on such a printer, use the

gs -sDEVICE=

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


You might want to print each page separately. To do this, send the output to a series of files


Each resulting file receives one page of output, and the files are numbered in sequence.

On Unix systems you can also send output to a pipe. For example, to pipe output to the lpr

  • sOutputFile=|lpr

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

  • sOutputFile=-

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

  • sPAPERSIZE=a_known_paper_size

for instance



  • sPAPERSIZE=legal

At this time, the known paper sizes, defined in the initialization file

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

gs -sDEVICE=bbox

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

gs -sDEVICE=bbox

prints out

%%!BoundingBox: 0 25 583 732

%%!HiResBoundingBox?: 0.808497 25.009496 582.994503 731.809445


When looking for the initialization files


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 __

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


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

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 before__ running the file. When Ghostscript finishes executing the file, it exits back to the shell.



Define a name in



Define a name in



Define a name in

  • 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

  • D__,

-d, -S, or -s cannot be changed (although, of course, they can be superseded by definitions in __



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.


Disables character caching. Useful only for debugging.


Disables the


Suppresses the normal initialization of the output device. This may be useful when debugging.


Disables the prompt and pause at the end of each page. This may be desirable for applications where another program is driving Ghostscript.


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.


Disables the


Leaves font2c and pcharstr__, which must bypass normal !PostScript access protection.


Selects an alternate initial output device, as described above.


Selects an alternate output file (or pipe) for the initial output device, as described above.


The locations of many Ghostscript run-time files are compiled into the executable when it is built. On Unix these are typically based in /usr/local, but this may be different on your system. Under DOS they are typically based in C:GS, but may be elsewhere, especially if you install Ghostscript with GSview. Run __gs

  • h__



Startup files, utilities, and basic font definitions


More font definitions


Ghostscript demonstration files


Diverse document files



String of options to be processed before the command line options


Used to specify an output device


Path names used to search for fonts


Path names for initialization files and fonts


Where temporary files are made


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


See the Usenet news group comp.lang.postscript.


This document was last revised for Ghostscript version 6.53.


L. Peter Deutsch

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