A First Guide to PostScript

This is the third edition of the First Guide to PostScript. It differs from the first in that a number of errors which people have brought to my attention have been fixed and a number of common reader questions have been addressed. Some more information on resources has also been added. It is my hope that this document is now stable and reasonably error-free. If you find an error, please send me e-mail and let me know. I can't promise that I'll fix it right away, but I will at least add it to my list of things to do.

By the way, I wish to thank the many people who have written to point out errors in this document's predecessor. Many of the improvements are due to them.

About this Document

This is meant to be a simple introduction to programming in the PostScript page description language from Adobe. This document is not meant to be a comprehensive reference manual (although it does contain an index of some of PostScript's standard operators and a list of various errors). There are far better reference books, if this is what you need. Instead, this is meant as an easily accessible on-line tutorial. It was written with the assumption that you have some experience programming and are familiar with concepts like arrays and variables.

I have created this document because I have noticed that many people on the Internet have been asking for some online document to get them started. I decided that this was a good opportunity.



PostScript is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated. The copyright to the PostScript language is also held by Adobe Systems Incorporated. Legal questions concerning these issues should be directed to them.

Note to European Readers

There have been many European visitors to this page. As a service to them, a mirror site has been established in Germany by some people at the GKSS Research Center. It will be available to our European friends to help speed up access and reduce the load on the transoceanic links. Unfortunately, the guide will still be in English (I'm a typical American, in that I speak about five words of French and even fewer of German). Many thanks to them for their interest in setting up this mirror!

Note on E-mail and Etiquette

I have recently been bombarded with junk e-mail. "Bombarded" is, perhaps, the wrong word, but I still find it disturbing. I do not know if my name has gotten on lists because of this guide or because of periodic posts I make. If any of you are thinking of adding my name to a list for money-making purposes, forget it. I never buy products from people who cold-call me or send me junk e-mail. Junk mail, cold-calling, and this new junk e-mail are all rude and wasteful behaviors, and I do not accept or condone them. If I continue to receive junk e-mail, I will begin to take harsh action. Part of this harsh action may result in my being unreachable to people I do not already know, which is not something I want.

None of the above should be interpreted to mean that I do not welcome e-mail from strangers. If you have some question about PostScript or the guide (or, better yet, a correction), I am always glad to hear from you and to do what I can to answer your question or correct the problem. I'm just annoyed at people who want my money and do not even follow the simple rules of etiquette.


No warranty or guarantee, either expressed or implied, is made as to the correctness of this document. The author can not be held responsible for any damages that may occur through the use of any code contained herein.

You get what you paid for.

That noted, permission to copy freely all information within this document is granted free of charge, so long as the original author is acknowledged. This document is not in the public domain, and the author retains the copyright.

McKinley Three Stars
3 February, 1996