Is PostScript a Scripting Language?


Scott Campbell

PostScript is a powerful language that is primarily used in the printing and publishing industry. It was developed by Adobe Systems in the 1980s and has since become a standard for printing high-quality documents.

But is PostScript a scripting language? Let’s dive deeper into this question.

What is a scripting language?
A scripting language is a programming language that is used to control the behavior of software applications or services. It typically consists of a set of instructions or commands that can be executed sequentially or conditionally. Scripting languages are often used for tasks such as automation, application development, and system administration.

PostScript as a page description language
PostScript was initially designed as a page description language rather than a scripting language. Its primary purpose was to describe the layout and contents of a printed page. With PostScript, you could specify things like text placement, font selection, graphics rendering, and color management.

However, over time, PostScript evolved to include more advanced features that allowed for procedural programming. This means that you could use PostScript to write scripts that perform complex operations based on conditions or input parameters.

PostScript as a programming language
While PostScript started as a page description language, it gained the ability to perform calculations, manipulate data structures, and implement control flow constructs such as loops and conditionals. These additions made it possible to use PostScript not only for describing pages but also for writing scripts that could perform more sophisticated tasks.

Some characteristics of PostScript as a programming language:
Turing completeness: PostScript is considered Turing complete because it can simulate any other Turing complete language. – Data manipulation: PostScript provides operators for manipulating numbers, strings, arrays, and dictionaries.

Procedural programming: You can define functions in PostScript using the `def` operator and call them later. – Control flow: PostScript supports conditional statements (`if`, `else`, `elseif`) and looping constructs (`for`, `repeat`, `loop`).

PostScript vs. other scripting languages
While PostScript does offer scripting capabilities, it is not as versatile as some other scripting languages like JavaScript or Python. PostScript’s primary focus is still on page layout and printing, so it may lack some features that are commonly found in general-purpose scripting languages.

However, for tasks related to printing and graphics manipulation, PostScript remains a powerful choice. Its integration with printers and its ability to generate high-quality output make it a valuable tool in the publishing industry.

  • Conclusion

In conclusion, while PostScript started as a page description language, it has evolved to include scripting capabilities. It can be used to write scripts that perform calculations, manipulate data structures, and implement control flow constructs.

However, compared to other general-purpose scripting languages, PostScript may have limitations due to its primary focus on printing and graphics. Nonetheless, for tasks related to printing and publishing, PostScript continues to be a valuable tool.

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