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Ghostscript Logo
Original author(s) L. Peter Deutsch
Developer(s) Artifex Software
Initial release August 11, 1988; 26 years ago (1988-08-11)[1]
Stable release 9.16 / March 30, 2015; 57 days ago (2015-03-30)
Written in C
Operating system Cross-platform
Type PostScript and PDF interpreter
License Affero General Public License, Proprietary License

Ghostscript is a suite of software based on an interpreter for Adobe Systems' PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF) page description languages. Its main purposes are the rasterization or rendering of such page description language files, for the display or printing of document pages, and the conversion between PostScript and PDF files.


Ghostscript can be used as a raster image processor (RIP) for raster computer printers—for instance, as an input filter of line printer daemon—or as the RIP engine behind PostScript and PDF viewers.

Ghostscript can also be used as a file format converter, such as PostScript to PDF converter. The ps2pdf conversion program, which comes with the ghostscript distribution, is described by its documentation as a "work-alike for nearly all the functionality (but not the user interface) of Adobe's Acrobat Distiller product".[2] This converter is basically a thin wrapper around ghostscript's pdfwrite output device, which supports PDF/A-1 and PDF/A-2 as well as PDF/X-3 output.[2]

Ghostscript can also serve as the back-end for PDF to raster image (png, tiff, jpeg, etc.) converter; this is often combined with a PostScript printer driver in "virtual printer" PDF creators.[citation needed]

As it takes the form of a language interpreter, Ghostscript can also be used as a general purpose programming environment.

Ghostscript has been ported to many operating systems, including Unix, Linux, Mac OS, OpenVMS, Microsoft Windows, Plan 9, MS-DOS, FreeDOS, OS/2, Atari TOS and AmigaOS.

Front ends[edit]

Several graphical user interfaces have been written for use with Ghostscript which permit a user to view a PostScript or PDF file on screen, scroll, page forward and backward, and zoom the text as well as print single or multiple pages.

  • Evince under Unix and Windows. Uses the libspectre library to render postscript, which in turn needs libgs from ghostscript. The current Windows package of Evince comes with libgs version 8.
  • Ghostview runs under Unix/X11.
  • GSview runs under Microsoft Windows, OS/2, and Unix-like operating systems. It is best known in its Windows and OS/2 versions.[citation needed] On UNIX it uses the GTK+ toolkit. Although released under Aladdin Free Public Licence, it also employs a nag screen to urge users to register so as to support the development of GSview. The registration fee is A$40. GSview is copyrighted to a different company than ghostscript, namely Ghostgum Software.[3] The Ghostscript documentation states, concerning its installation under Windows: "After installing Ghostscript, it is strongly recommended that you install the GSview previewer, which provides an easier to use graphical interface for Ghostscript."[4]
  • gv runs under Unix/X11 and VMS. gv is a visually improved version of Ghostview. Its behaviour is similar to Ghostview.
  • KGhostView runs under Unix/X11. It is KDE3 port of Ghostview.
  • mgv runs under Unix/X11. It is a Motif based front-end to Ghostscript. It features a more conventional user interface, with regular menus, a toolbar, and scrollbars.
  • Moonshiner is a graphical front-end for using Ghostscript to convert from PostScript to PDF, aiming to be a Linux work-alike for Adobe's Distiller.
  • Okular runs under Unix/X11 and Microsoft Windows (using KDE4 for Windows). It is a KDE4 application.
  • PDF Blender is a cross-platform application that converts and merges documents to and from PostScript and PDF formats.
  • PS_View runs under Windows, Linux and Mac OS X; it is included in TeX Live as the default PostScript viewer on Windows.[5]
  • Ghostscript Studio runs under Windows. It is graphical front-end for using Ghostscript to convert between various formats, view PDF and multi-page PostScript files.

A number of applications use Ghostscript to import or display PDF files (e.g., IrfanView, Inkscape). Additionally, a large number of virtual printers use Ghostscript to create PDF files; for a non-exhaustive list, see List of virtual printer software.


Libraries that provides ability to access Ghostscript library from various programming languages.


Ghostscript was originally written by L. Peter Deutsch in 1986 for the GNU Project, and released under the GNU General Public License; later, Deutsch formed Aladdin Enterprises to license Ghostscript under a proprietary license. Ghostscript is currently owned by Artifex Software and maintained by Artifex Software employees and the worldwide user community. As of version 9.03, Ghostscript can no longer be freely distributed by most users without acquiring a commercial license from Artifex. An exception is made for applications which are entirely licensed to the public under the AGPL, in which case Ghostscript is also available under the AGPL.[6]


  • AGPL Ghostscript is the canonical variant available, since February 2013,[7] under the Affero General Public License which is a free software license. Before June 2006, the leading edge of Ghostscript development was distributed as AFPL Ghostscript (formerly named Aladdin Ghostscript) under the Aladdin Free Public License, which restricts commercial use. AFPL Ghostscript is now abandoned.[8]
  • GNU Ghostscript is part of the GNU project and is now derived from GPL Ghostscript.
  • ESP Ghostscript was distributed by Easy Software Products under the GPL. It was based on GPL Ghostscript and contains several modifications to improve compatibility with ESP's Common Unix Printing System. This version is no longer developed, since it was merged with GPL Ghostscript.[9]
  • Ghostscript is the current commercial proprietary version licensed by Artifex Software for inclusion in closed-source products.
  • Ghost Trap is a variant of GPL Ghostscript secured and sandboxed using Google Chrome's sandbox technology.

The GPL version is also used as the basis for a Display Ghostscript, which adds the functionality needed to fully support Display PostScript.

Free fonts[edit]

There are several sets of free fonts [10] supplied for Ghostscript:[11][12][13][14]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]