An Entry Level Guide to Barcode Software
Barcode software is now used in most transactions on a daily basis. Everything from buying books to giving blood, now involves barcode scanning, printing and reader technology in some way. If you are going to need barcode software for your business or profession, here is a guide to the main points for first-time users.
Before researching your software requirements, you need to know what type of barcodes you'll be using. There are hundreds of varieties and most industries use established standards such as the UPC code, used by retailers in the USA and Canada for identifying products, or the ISBN, the international standard for books. So before considering a bespoke solution, make sure you've checked out the barcode standards within your industry or sector. For a list of the main barcode standards and their symbologies see www.idautomation.com.
Generating a one-off barcode is quick and easy and there are plenty of free barcode generators available online. The barcode server at www.milk.com/barcode is a non-commercial website which lets you enter seven, eight or 13-digit UPC/EAN barcodes and view the results instantly. Most reseller websites offer free barcode generators for demonstration purposes. See www.bokai.com and www.azalea.com for more details.
Which software applications support barcode printing?
Most database, spreadsheet and reporting applications for Windows and Macintosh support barcodes. This includes the Microsoft Office family such as Access, Excel and Word, and extends to powerful database and reporting applications such as Oracle and Crystal Reports. There are many options available for commercial use. First-time users should choose 'self-checking' barcodes, as they eliminate the need for complex calculations or extra programming. User-friendly plug-ins are available for most common office programs. These offer a simple way to add barcode functionality to existing applications. Alternatively there are plenty of entry-level barcode software programs designed specifically for printing barcode labels that are both affordable and easy to use. Technical users and programmers can use ActiveX Controls and Java based packages to create barcodes within most Windows and Macintosh software applications. For demo and shareware downloads plus links to US commercial resellers see www.barcode-1.net.
What barcode reader and scanning software do I need?
In many cases this will be pre-determined by the kind of scanning (reader) and database system you are using. Originally a 'wedge' was the standard gadget used for transmitting barcode data to computers. The wedge is a piece of hardware with a keyboard and scanner attached. When a barcode gets scanned it transmits data from the scanner to the computer as though it were entered in keystrokes. More recently, 'software scanning wedges' were developed for laptops and machines with integral keyboards. However, hardware wedges are still widely used, as they are cheap and quick to install. Alternatively many entry-level CCD scanners include their own decoders for reading barcodes. For more on wedges see click here