Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

I have a barcode number - I need a barcode image, how do I get one?

We create thousands of barcode images for customers each year.  You provide an 8,12,13 or 14 digit number (that you get from GS1 or the National Library) and we email you back an image in the graphics format you want (JPEG, GIF, TIFF or EPS).  Each barcode image costs around $30 unless you order more than ten, orders of ten or more please contact us for a quote.  Once you have your image, you send that to the company doing your printing.  We will email your image(s) as soon as we receive your payment.  Expect to get a reply with an invoice within 24 hours of submitting your numbers. 

What is Keyboard Wedge?

Keyboard Wedge is an idea used by all desktop barcode readers.  It works by taking the data from the barcode and putting it into the computer as if it were typed in via the keyboard.  The barcode reader cable is plugged in either through the USB socket or via the keyboard socket.  The result is a situation where you scan a barcode with numbers in it and the numbers appear where the cursor is on your screen.  If you are typing into Microsoft Excel, your numbers will appear in the cell you are working in.  Likewise, if you're using Microsoft Word the barcode data will appear where your cursor is.  Keyboard wedge eliminates the need for software - simply plug the barcode scanner in and it works! 

Can I have numbers and letters in my barcode?

Yes - there are dozens of different barcode styles (symbologies) each with different characteristics - some are smaller, some are able to encode letters and numbers, some are able to encode non-printing characters like the F1-12 function keys and some have high degrees of 'security'.   Depending on the symbology determines if you can use numbers and letters.  The EAN13 barcode on retail products encodes only numbers.

There are lots of different types of barcodes, which barcode is best?

We usually suggest people use a code called Code128.  It's compact and it has built in 'security' (i.e. it checks itself).  However, if you're putting barcodes onto retail items, you don't have any choice - it has to be an EAN13.

Can I use any barcode for use within my organisation only?

There is no limit to the type of barcode or format of data you can use in your own organisation.  There may be a limit regarding the width of the code.  The more characters you encode the wider the barcode becomes.  If the code is too wide the reader won't be able to 'see' the edges and therefore can't read it.  For example, if you're using a barcode to track a job around a factory - you can use any barcode you want.  If you're sending barcodes into the retail or distribution chain there are limitations.  If you produce a traded product i.e. a can of drink, you need to register with GS1 and pay for a barcode number.

What are 2D barcodes?

2D are the 2nd generation of barcode.  They can contain much more data than standard codes.  They can also be set up with a high level of security - so if the code is damaged it can still be read.  The concept behind them is that the data is carried in the code rather than on a separate database.  For example, with ID cards printed with 2D codes, you are able to encode details about the cardholder that can be read anywhere without the need for communications back to a host computer.  Most barcode printers can produce 2D codes (although small codes need high-resolution printers).  Check if your label design software can design them.  

2D barcode types

Matrix style 2D codes

A matrix style 2D code is very efficient and if it's recording only a few characters it can be very small.  Perfect for Printed Circuit boards or small components.   Codes in this family include: 3-DI ArrayTag, Aztec Code, Small Aztec Code, bCODE, Bullseye, Datamatrix, Datastrip Code, Dot Code A, MaxiCode mCode, MiniCode, PDMark, QR Code, Semacode, SmartCode, Snowflake, ShotCode, SuperCode, Trillcode, UltraCode, VeriCode, and WaterCode.  Many are designed to be read by mobile phones and not barcode readers.

The problem with these codes is that they need special reading technology - more like cameras than barcode readers.  This reading technology is called area imaging.  Area imagers tend to be more expensive than standard readers. 

'Stacked linear' barcode

The 'Stacked Linear' barcode is really just a series of standard 'linear' barcodes (the type of barcode you would find printed on groceries) printed on top of one another.  They still contain a lot of data and offer high levels of security but aren't as efficient as matrix codes.  The names of these codes include PDF417, Codablock, Code 16K, Code 49, PDF417 and Micro PDF417.

The advantage of these barcodes is that the cost of readers is lower, because they are simply just a standard barcode reader with memory.  The scanner reads the first line, stores it, reads the next lines and then outputs it as one long string of text. 

What is Datalogic's Greenspot feature?

Datalogic, one of the world's largest makers of barcode scanners, has a feature built into many of their desktop scanners that display a green light on the barcode in front of you when you've successfully scanned it.  Not all users can hear the beep of the barcode scanner (because it's noisy or they've turned off the confirmation beep). With Greenspot you get confirmation of a good read without looking elsewhere (i.e. at the top of the scanner).

What is an IP (ingress protection) rating?

An IP (Ingress Protection) number is used to show how well protected electronic equipment is from it's environment. These ratings are determined by specific tests. The IP (Ingress Protection) number is a two digit number, the first number being the protection against solid objects (usually dust) and the second is it's protection from liquids. The higher the number the better the protection.  Barcode products tend to be protected against dust and against water sprayed from all directions and against low-pressure jets of water from all directions.  Call us if you need more information about IP Ratings

What codes can I scan with my barcode scanner?

This is a question we get asked a lot so here are some answers. Barcodes come in different designs and layouts.  These designs and layouts are called symbologies.  Each symbology has different features, such as compact size, ability to encode letters and numbers or just numbers, security (i.e. it has a check digit to ensure the code is printed and read correctly) and so on.

These symbologies fall into two main types; standard 1D linear barcodes (codes that print across – as you would see on a can of drink) and 2D barcodes.  2D codes store much more information in them.  They appear like a block of dots.  The information is stored across and up and down in the code – hence 2D rather than 1D barcodes.  2D codes are much more versatile.  They can be smaller, they can store much more information than 1D codes and they can tolerate much more damage (i.e. smudging or creasing) before they're unreadable.  

Barcode scanners come in at least six different forms.  

Old style pen scanners

It's difficult to get hold of these scanners anymore.  They were difficult to use and nowadays they're quite expensive.  These scanners will only read linear (1D) barcodes.

CCD scanners

These scanners use a row of red LEDs to light up the barcode.  These scanners will only read linear (1D) barcodes and they will only read up to a few cm away.

Linear Imagers

These scanners also use red LEDs to light up the barcode, but they will scan the barcode up to 30 cm away.  Linear imagers will only read 1D barcodes.  Some linear imagers are designed to read special “stacked” barcodes that look like a 2D code but are really a number of linear codes printed one on top of the other. Usually, though, linear imagers are only good for 1D codes.  

Laser scanners

These scanners fire a laser beam that flicks left and right hundreds of times a second.  The laser appears like one bright red laser line across the target.  These scanners are easy to use and quick and because of this, they're very popular.  Laser barcode scanners can only read 1D barcodes.

2D imagers

These scanners are really cameras that search the picture they've taken for barcodes.  Once they have found the barcode in the picture the electronics turn it into data.  They're very versatile and can scan signatures and take photographs as well as read barcodes.  This type of scanner will scan all types of barcode.  These scanners are the most expensive to buy.

Camera phones

Pretty much every cell phone has a built-in camera.  Many of them are able to read barcodes, though sometimes only QR codes (which are a type of 2D barcode). Smartphones are a little more flexible and can read a range of types of barcode.  If barcodes are important to you, test the phone before you buy it.

In summary, 2D barcodes can only be read by imagers and some cell phones.  Pretty much anything else will read 1D barcodes.  If you suspect the code you want to read is uncommon and might not be readable, send us a copy for testing.  If you find the scanner you bought from us fails to read your code, let us know and we'll make arrangements for you to return it (providing you do so within 30 days and it meets our returns pledge).