fbpx

Understanding Bar Codes

By |2021-08-02T08:31:06-05:00March 13th, 2018|Comments Off on Understanding Bar Codes
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Introduction

The software technicians at Aptora® get a lot of questions about bar coding. Many people see bar codes as mysterious and bar code management difficult. Bar codes are actually very easy to understand.

The most visible use of bar codes is the supermarket industry, where it has been in use since 1970. They needed a faster and more accurate method of data entry. This was due, in part, to the fact that cashiers were highly skilled people; paid for their data entry speed and accuracy. Automating this process meant that the ‘average’ person could achieve high rates of speed and accuracy. Oh yes, and be paid a lot less too.

What is a Bar Code?

A bar code is nothing more than a font or type style; like Arial, Times New Roman, Courier, etc. Bar code fonts are installed on your computer like any other font. If you have a bar code font installed on your computer, you should see it listed in your Fonts list (like from MS Word®). However, bar codes are not free and most computers don’t have bar code fonts unless they have been specifically installed. When you install software programs like Flat Rate Plus® and Total Office Manager®, they add certain bar code fonts to your computer. In fact, you could open MS Word, highlight text and change the standard font to a bar code font.

Some Technical Details

As you can see, a Bar Code symbol consists of a series of parallel, adjacent bars and spaces. Predetermined width patterns are used to code the actual data into the symbol. In the case of Code 39  (Bar Code Font), each character consists of 9 segments, five bars and four spaces. Bars and spaces have two sizes. The width of the bars and the number and position of the spaces determines the character.

Bar codes include a stop and start character. The Code 39 bar codes uses an asterisk (“*”) to tell the scanner when the bar code starts and when it stops. There must also be sufficient blank space around the bar code. This is called the quiet zone.

To read information contained in a Bar Code symbol, a scanning device, such as a light pen (or more commonly a wand), is moved across the symbol from one side to the other. As a scanning device is moved across the symbol, the Bar Code width pattern of bars and spaces is analyzed by the Bar Code decoder, and the original data is recovered.

How to Obtain a Bar Code

Bar codes are fonts and they are not usually installed on a computer unless they were part of a software installation that uses them. Bar code fonts may be purchased from www.idautomation.com and other companies.

Creating Bar Codes

Bar codes should be printed using a high resolution printer and clean white paper. Most bar codes require no special inks or hardware. Virtually any modern laser printer can print bar codes. The example shown earlier was printed using a standard laser printer. To optimize readability, bar codes should be printed in black on white paper. A font size of 12 or greater is usually recommended. It is also recommended that no more than thirty characters be bar coded.

As mentioned earlier, you can enter information into MS Word® and change the standard font to a bar code font. Software programs like Total Office Manager® and Flat Rate Plus® allow you to print parts lists and other reports with bar codes.

Why Use Bar Codes

Bar codes are used to speed up data entry and reduce input errors. Labels, forms and other paper work may contain bar codes. Important fields such as model numbers, serial numbers, invoice numbers, item numbers, and account numbers would be good choices for a bar code font. These bar codes may then be scanned using a variety of bar code scanners.

Hardware Requirements & Equipment

Wand Scanner

Sometimes referred to as a Wand Scanner, Bar Code Wands use to be very popular but are not used much any more. They resemble a pen and require you to make contact with the bar code. Wands are manually moved across Bar Codes to perform the reading function, hence their classification as “contact” scanners.

Laser Scanner

Bar Code Laser Scanners are faster and easier to use than Wand or CCD Scanners. The user simply holds the Laser Scanner above the Bar Code, and pulls the trigger button. Laser scanners typically read Bar Codes from near contact to about 12 inch distance. There are some so called “long range” scanners that can read up to four feet. That’s why they’re called “non-contact” scanners. Bar Code Laser Scanners are best suited for reading Bar Codes from a distance, reading poorly printed labels, reading a wide range of label sizes, and reading labels on irregular surfaces.

Usage

To read information contained in a Bar Code symbol, a scanning device, such as a light pen (or more commonly a wand), is moved across the symbol from one side to the other. As a scanning device is moved across the symbol, the Bar Code width pattern of bars and spaces is analyzed by the Bar Code decoder, and the original data is recovered.

For example: Place your cursor in a field that accepts characters from a standard keyboard (like a part number field). Next, scan a bar code using a bar code reader. The part number is then entered into the field where their cursor is – as if you typed it yourself.

The bar code reader does not contain any type of inventory or other information. It is simply an input device – no different than your keyboard. Your software must have information about what was scanned. For example, if you are scanning an item number, the software program must have this item number and other details about this item already entered into it.

In the contracting industry, there are many simple and productive uses for bar codes. Here are some quick examples:

  • You might print bar codes for all of your inventory items using reusable stickers. When an item is sold, these stickers could be transferred from the item to the back of the invoice or other paperwork. Your office could then scan these bar codes for faster invoicing and job costing.
  • Most items include UPC labels. Universal Product Codes could be programmed into Total Office Manager as Item Aliases. When receiving items into inventory, you could simply scan these bar codes rather than enter each and every item by hand.
  • Print bar codes for all of your company assets such as computers, printers, phones, tools, and equipment. At the end of each year you could scan these bar codes for inventory purposes.

Tips

  • Bar codes (including QR codes) are just fonts. When you change the font of an inventory item to a bar code font, it becomes a bar code. You may then print the bar codes and use a bar code scanner to read them.

Related Content

 

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

HVAC Electrical Plumbing Software

Aptora delivers a true All-In-One services software solution including CRM, accounting, payroll, inventory, vendors, sales, marketing, dispatch, flat rate pricing, and more. NO 3rd party plugins or integrations required. Created by contractors for contractors, we know what it takes to grow your services-based businesses.

Newsletter

Sign-up to get the latest news and update information. Don’t worry, we won’t send spam!

Thank you for your message. It has been sent.
There was an error trying to send your message. Please try again later.
Go to Top