Overview of Ghostscript

If this is your first contact with Ghostscript, before continuing here you should read the documentation for new users, where you'll find

The rest of this document is a roadmap to the Ghostscript documentation. After looking through it, if you want to install Ghostscript and not only use it, we recommend you read how to install Ghostscript, and how to compile Ghostscript from source code (which is necessary before installing it on Unix and VMS systems).

Table of contents

Document roadmap by theme

What should I read if I'm a new user?

A new user of Ghostscript should begin by reading the material specifically for new users, then as many of these documents as seem useful:

AFPL Ghostscript and GNU Ghostscript

AFPL Ghostscript and GNU Ghostscript are different releases. If you have AFPL Ghostscript, not the GNU Ghostscript releases distributed by the Free Software Foundation, you should read (or at least skim through):

If you run into any questions, or if you are going to be using Ghostscript extensively, you should at least skim, and probably eventually read:

Before building Ghostscript

If you are going to compile Ghostscript from source, rather than just use an executable you got from somewhere, you may want to read:

What should I read if I'm not a new user?

If you have already used Ghostscript, when you receive a new release you should begin by reading this file, then

What if I'm a developer?

If you are going to do any development on or with Ghostscript at all, you should at least look at

If you are going to write a new driver for Ghostscript, you should read

If you are considering distributing Ghostscript (either AFPL or GNU versions) in conjunction with a commercial product, you should read the license carefully, and you should also read

If you intend to use Ghostscript in the form of a dynamic link library (DLL) under OS/2 or Microsoft Windows or in the form of shared object under Linux, read

If you want to use Ghostscript as part of another program--as a callable PostScript language interpreter--and not as a DLL or as a self-contained executable application, you should begin by reading

or if you are going to use only the Ghostscript graphics library,

What if I'm writing documentation?

If you are editing or adding to Ghostscript's existing documentation in HTML format, or writing a new document, you should read

Presence on the World Wide Web

Ghostscript's home page

Ghostscript has a home page on the World Wide Web with helpful information such as the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and a list of known problems and workarounds for the current AFPL Ghostscript release (in the "Obtaining" file for that release):


More material about Ghostscript can be found at


Adobe PostScript, Encapsulated PostScript, and PDF reference documentation

Adobe makes a wealth of technical documentation available over the Web, including the PostScript Language Reference Manual (Third Edition); the Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) Format Specification version 3, including Encapsulated PostScript Interchange (EPSI) format; the PDF 1.3 specification; and the pdfmark, transparency and Acrobat Distiller parameters documentation. Some of these documents are also available at Adobe's ftp site, but not necessarily under the same filenames.

Other material on the WWW

Much other material about Ghostscript is available on the World Wide Web, both as web pages and as archived Usenet and mailing list discussions. Use the well-known search engines to find such material.

There is a good manual for Ghostscript available in PDF form, in English and German (and soon in Japanese), at:


There is a translation of the Ghostscript 'man' pages into Czech at:


Which document contains what?

Here is the list in alphabetic order of Ghostscript documentation, with explanations of the contents.

On MS-Windows and OS/2, Ghostscript is compiled as a dynamic link library (DLL). On Linux, Ghostscript can be compiled as a shared object. This describes how to use it. For developers.
A form to fill out and email to report a problem with AFPL Ghostscript--but remember that Ghostscript comes with NO WARRANTY and NO SUPPORT. Please read the instructions before reporting a bug.
Information about how to report problems with AFPL Ghostscript--but remember that Ghostscript comes with NO WARRANTY and NO SUPPORT. Please read this before reporting a problem.
Guidelines and style for C coding, which you should follow if, for example, you write a new driver or add or change something in Ghostscript. For developers.
A detailed list of all code changes in the current release or pre-release, generated mechanically from the CVS logs. For developers.
The conditions under which Ghostscript may be distributed in a commercial context. See also the Aladdin Free Public License.
A reminder that AFPL Ghostscript is governed NOT by the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License but by the Aladdin Free Public License.
On OS/2, MS Windows-16 and MS Windows-32 platforms, Ghostscript is compiled as a dynamic link library (DLL). This describes how to use it. For developers. This DLL interface is obsolete. Use API.htm instead.
Code orientation for developers. Contains a detailed breakdown of the source files by functional group, and overviews of the major architectural features and services.
Documention for deprecated devices and features. Features described here will be removed in future versions of Ghostscript.
Detailed information about some specific devices for which Ghostscript can produce output. Run "gs -h" to see which devices a particular version of Ghostscript is built to use.
Describes the interface between Ghostscript and device drivers. If you do this, you should also read and use the C style and coding guidelines. Necessary to develop a new driver. For developers.
All about fonts freely available for Ghostscript, and how to add and use new fonts. Also describes how to use Ghostscript fonts as X Windows fonts. For both users and developers.
A note of thanks to people who have helped in the development of Ghostscript.
Part 1 of the five-part original Usenet distribution of the free Hershey fonts, giving the terms of use and describing their encoding.
The history of changes in all Ghostscript releases:
History7.htm for Ghostscript versions 7.n
History6.htm for Ghostscript versions 6.n
History5.htm for Ghostscript versions 5.n
History4.htm for Ghostscript versions 4.n
History3.htm for Ghostscript versions 3.n
History2.htm for Ghostscript versions 2.n
History1.htm for Ghostscript versions 1.n
The guidelines and style for HTML coding of Ghostscript's documentation, which you should follow if, for example, you change existing HTML documentation or write new documents. For writers and editors.
Another Ghostscript interpreter.
How to install Ghostscript. See also how to build it.
A list of outstanding open issues in Ghostscript. These include known limitations, minor bugs, performance issues, differences from Adobe implementations, and others.
The relationship between the Ghostscript interpreter and the PostScript language as defined by Adobe.
A description of the Ghostscript library, a set of procedures to implement the graphics and filtering capabilities that are primitive operations in the PostScript language and in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). For developers.
Assorted Ghostscript maintenance procedures. For developers.
How to build Ghostscript executables from the source code. See also how to install it. It's not necessary to be a highly experienced developer to build or install Ghostscript, but some experience is needed.
Essential information for new users of Ghostscript.
A brief description of the latest release or pre-release of Ghostscript, and a list of any incompatible changes in it. Changes in older releases are described in the history files "History*.htm", which are usually installed in the documentation directory. Run "gs -h" to see where that is.
A list of Ghostscript development projects with which we would like help.
The guidelines and style for postscript coding in Ghostscript. Some of Ghostscript is implemented in the postscript language itself, and various utilities and examples are distributed with it. You should follow these guidelines if you're extending or modifying those files. For developers.
Detailed information on how to use Ghostscript through ps2epsi to convert PostScript to Adobe Encapsulated PostScript Interchange (EPSI) format.
Detailed information on how to use Ghostscript through ps2pdf to convert PostScript to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF).
A description of the PostScript files (other than font files) distributed with Ghostscript, including initialization routines, utility programs, and sample printable files.
The Aladdin Free Public License, which states the conditions for using and redistributing AFPL Ghostscript.
This document.
A description of how to prepare and test a Ghostscript release. Of interest only to developers who want to create new Ghostscript versions for distribution.
A guide to the Ghostscript source code, for development and debugging.
A short questionnaire to fill out if you would like to be notified of new tester / beta releases.
Documentation for using the test scripts located in the toolbin/tests directory, and conventions for writing new testing scripts.
How to set up Ghostscript as a Unix lpr filter.
Detailed instructions on how to use Ghostscript, including such matters as designating an output device; choosing a default paper size; how Ghostscript finds files, including font files; how it uses environment variables; notes on specific platforms, including the X Window System; and command-line options.
Ghostscript's external font interface to a host platform's font-rendering mechanism, for developers.

Copyright © 1996-2002 artofcode LLC. 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 the license contained in the file LICENSE in this distribution. For more information about licensing, please refer to http://www.ghostscript.com/licensing/. For information on commercial licensing, go to http://www.artifex.com/licensing/ or contact Artifex Software, Inc., 101 Lucas Valley Road #110, San Rafael, CA 94903, U.S.A., +1(415)492-9861.

Ghostscript version 8.11, 16 August 2003