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pbmtoppa – convert PBM image to HP Printer Performance Architecture



[pbm_file [ppa_file]]


pbmtoppa converts page images in PBM format to Hewlett Packard’s PPA
(Printer Performance Architecture) format, which is the data stream
format expected by some HP “Windows-only” printers including the HP
Deskjet 820C series, the HP DeskJet 720 series, and the HP DeskJet 1000

pbm_file is the file specification of the input file or – for Standard
Input. The default is Standard Input.

The input file contains one or more PBM images, with each one being a
single page. Each image must have the exact dimensions of a page (at
600 pixels per inch in both directions). Significantly, this is the
format the Ghostscript produces.

ppa_file is the file specification of the output file or – for Standard
Output. The default is Standard Output.

To print Postscript on an HP PPA printer, just use Ghostscript with the
pbmraw (or pbm) device driver.

You can generate a test page for use with this program with pbmpage.

You can also set up a printer filter so you can submit PBM input
directly to your print queue. See the documentation for your print
spooler for information on how to do that, or look in hp820install.doc
for an example lpd print filter for Postscript and text files.

Sometimes, pbmtoppa generates a file which the printer will not print
(because pbmtoppa’s input is unprintable). When this happens, all
three lights blink to signal the error. This is usually because there
is material outside of the printer’s printable area. To make the file
print, increase the margins via pbmtoppa options or a configuration
file. See the CALIBRATION section below.


-v version
printer version (720, 820, or 1000)

-x xoff
vertical offset adjustment in 1″/600

-y yoff
horizontal offset adjustment in 1″/600

-t topmarg
top margin in 1″/600 (default: 150 = 0.25″)

-l leftmarg
left margin in 1″/600 (default: 150 = 0.25″)

-r rightmarg
right margin in 1″/600 (default: 150 = 0.25″)

-b botmarg
bottom margin in 1″/600 (default: 150 = 0.25″)

-s paper
paper size: us or a4. Default is us.

-f cfgfile
read parameters from configuration file cfgfile

The -x and -y options accumulate.

The -v option resets the horizontal and vertical adjustments to an
internal default.

You can use configuration files to specify parameters rather than use
invocation options. pbmtoppa processes the file /etc/pbmtoppa.conf, if
it exists, before processing any options. It then processes each con‐
figuration file named by a -f option in order, applying the parameters
from the configuration file as if they were invocation options used in
the place of the -f option.

Configuration files have the following format:

key1 value1
key2 value2

Valid keys are version, xoffset, yoffset, topmargin, leftmargin, right‐
margin, bottommargin, papersize, or any non-null prefix of these words.
Valid values are the same as with the corresponding invocation parame‐

Print a test pattern:

pbmpage | pbmppa >/dev/lp1

Print three pages:

cat page1.pbm page2.pbm page3.pbm | pbmppa >/dev/lp1

Print the Postscript file myfile.ps:

gs -sDEVICE=rawpbm -q -dNOPAUSE -r600 \
-sOutputFile=- myfile.ps \
| pbmtoppa | lpr

To be able to print successfully and properly, you need to tell pbm‐
toppa an X and a Y offset appropriate for your printer to use when gen‐
erating the page. You can specify these offsets with the -x and -y
invocation options or with the xoff and yoff parameters in a pbmtoppa
configuration file.

To determine the correct offsets, use the pbmpage program.

If while trying to do this calibration, the printer refuses to print a
page, but just blinks all three lights, specify large margins (e.g. 600
pixels — one inch) via pbmpage invocation options while doing the cal‐

For example:

pbmpage | pbmtoppa >/dev/lp1
pbmpage | pbmtoppa | lpr -l
(if your printer filter recognizes the ‘-l’ (direct output) parameter).

In the test pattern, the grid is marked off in pixel coordinate num‐
bers. Unfortunately, these coordinates are probably cut off before the
edge of the paper. You’ll have to use a ruler to estimate the pixel
coordinate of the left and top edges of the actual sheet of paper
(should be within +/- 300, may be negative; there are 600 pixels per

Add these coordinates to the X and Y offsets by either editing the con‐
figuration file or using the -x and -y command-line parameters.

When pbmtoppa is properly calibrated, the center mark should be in the
center of the paper. Also, the margins should be able to be as small
as 1/4 inch without causing the printer to choke with ‘blinking lights

RedHat users may find the following tip from Panayotis Vryonis helpful. The same should work for the 820 and 1000, but it
hasn’t been tested. Also, use the pbmraw GSDriver if you have it; it’s

Here is a tip to intergrate HP720C support in RedHat’s printtool:

Install pbm2ppa. Copy pbm2ppa to /usr/bin.

Edit “printerdb” (in my system it is found in /usr/lib/rhs/rhs-print‐
filters ) and append the following lines:

———————-Cut here———————–
StartEntry: DeskJet720C
GSDriver: pbm
Description: {HP DeskJet 720C}
About: { \
This driver supports the HP DeskJet 720C \
inkjet printer. \
It does does not support color printing. \
“- | pbm2ppa -” \
in the “Extra GS Otions” field.\
Resolution: {600} {600} {}
EndEntry —————————————————-

Now you can add an HP720C printer just like any other, using printtool.


pbmpage, pstopnm, pbm(5)

pnm2ppa is not part of Netpbm, but does the same things as pbmtoppa
except it also works with color and has lots more features. See

The file INSTALL-MORE in the pbmtoppa directory of the Netpbm source
code contains detailed instructions on setting up a system to use pbm‐
toppa to allow convenient printing on HP PPA printers. It was written
by Michael Buehlmann.

For information about the PPA protocol and the separately distributed
pbm2ppa program from which pbmtoppa was derived, see


Tim Norman. Copyright (C) 1998. Licensed under GNU Public License

Manual page by Bryan Henderson, May 2000.

01 May 2000 pbmtoppa

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