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What's a Barcode?

Barcode is an automatic identification technology. It allows data to be collected accurately and rapidly.

A Barcode symbol consists of a series of parallel, adjacent bars and spaces. Predetermined width patterns are used to code actual data into the symbol. To read information contained in a Barcode symbol, a scanning device, such as a light pen (or wand), is moved across the symbol from one side to the other. As a scanning device is moved across the symbol, the Barcode width pattern of bars and spaces is analized by the Barcode decoder, and the original data is recovered.

The most visible application of this technology is the supermarket industry, where it has been in use since 1970. Barcode is now the de facto automatic identification technology, for virtually any application.

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What's a Barcode Wand Scanner?

Barcode Wands are the most popular Barcode readers or scanners, due to their low cost. Wands are manually moved across Barcodes to perform the reading function, hence their classification as "contact" scanners.

Barcode Wand are extremely simple to use, but require users to keep a reasonably constant scanning motion accross the Barcode, and a flat surface behind the Barcode to support the pressure applied by the operator during the scanning motion.

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What's a Barcode CCD Scanner?

Barcode CCD Scanners are faster and easier to use than Wand Scanners. User simply holds the CCD Scanner slightly above the Barcode, and pulls the trigger button. CCD scanners typically read Barcodes from contact to about one-half inch distance, hence their classification as "near-contact" scanners.

Barcode physical length must be considered when using CCD Barcode Scanners, as the complete Barcode must be covered by the CCD scanner optical head.

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What's a Barcode Laser Scanner?

Barcode Laser Scanners are faster and easier to use than Wand or CCD Scanners. User simply holds the Laser Scanner above the Barcode, and pulls the trigger button. Laser scanners typically read Barcodes from near contact to 12 inch distance (some models up to four feet), hence their classification as "non-contact" scanners.

Barcode Laser Scanners are best suited for reading Barcodes from a distance, reading poorly printed labels, reading a wide range of label sizes, and reading labels on irregular surfaces.

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What's a Barcode Keyboard Wedge?

A Barcode Keyboard Wedge Decoder is a microcomputer which decodes the signals generated by a Barcode Scanner (while reading a label), and converts the analized bar and space patterns into the original data. The Barcode Decoder then converts the recovered data into the same codes that the Keyboard generates (aka: keyboard codes), in order to "fool" the PC into believing that the scanned data was typed on the keyboard. The Barcode Keyboard Wedge also includes the required electronics to combine both the Keyboard and Decoder codes (and cables), for sending data to the PC Keyboard buffer (via the Keyboard connector on the PC - No Special Software Required).

In order to install the Keyboard Wedge, user disconnects the Keyboard from the PC, and simply connects the Keyboard Wedge between the Keyboard and the PC (hence the term "wedge"). Thereafter, any data, scanned or typed, appears to the PC as if it had been typed on the Keyboard.

Barcode Keyboard Wedges are operating system independent, which means that the work with MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, OS/2, Windows 95, Windows NT, or any other PC operating system. Barcode Keyboard Wedges are available as stand-alone boxes or built-in (integrated) into the Scanner body.

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What's a Barcode Software Keyboard Wedge?

A Barcode Software Wedge is a software program that is installed in a PC, to perform the functions typically performed by a hardware Barcode Keyboard Wedge or RS-232 Decoder (basically, decoding signals generated by Barcode Scanners, and converting them to alpha-numeric codes). These programs allow connection of an 'undecoded' Scanner into a PC RS-232 port, with the PC software performing the Barcode decoding functions (Not to be confused with DECODED RS-232 Scanners, which include hardware Barcode decoders and provide decoded data via RS-232 interfaces).

Costs for Software Wedges are, as expected, lower than traditional hardware Barcode Keyboard Wedges, however, hardware versions are far superior. Barcode Software Wedges have various limitations. For example, when compared with traditional hardware Barcode Keyboard Wedge or RS-232 Decoders, Software Wedges are: slower, less accurate, sensitive to noise (usually picked-up by the Scanner cable - cables must be short!), and worst of all, they are operating system specific (if they work with MS-DOS, they may not work with Windows 3.1, if they work with Windows 3.1, they may not work with Windows 95, etc.).

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What's a Barcode Portable Reader?

A Barcode Portable Reader is an integrated microcomputer system, which includes a display, key-pad, Barcode decoding capability, RS-232 communications port, batteries, and memory for data and program storage. For Barcode data collection, the system can be equiped with Barcode Wand, CCD, or Laser Scanners.

The system provides operators with prompts, in response to which, operators enter data via key-pad or Barcode Scanners. Collected data is saved, until Portable Reader uploads data (via RS-232 port) to the PC, where data is typically saved in delimited ASCII files, for easy import into Access, FoxPro, Excel, and other applications.

Programming for custom operator prompt sequences can be cumbersome, if you choose to program using proprietary language/software provided by the equipment manufacturer, or extremely fast and simple if you use an Easy-to-Use Application Program Generator. Application Program Generators provide non-technical personnel the ability to program for specific prompt sequences in only a few minutes.

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What's an Integrated Barcode Portable Reader?

An Integrated Barcode Portable Reader is a traditional Portable Barcode Reader that has a permanently attached Barcode Scanner (typically a Laser Scanner). The advantage of using this type of Portable is that operator can perform the data collection operation using only one hand (vs. two hands when using a detached Barcode Scanner).

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What's a Portable Application Program Generator?

A Portable Application Program Generator is a tool for designing custom prompt sequences for use in data collection activities. Application Program Generators typically require no programming experience, and allow developing custom applications in minutes.

When using an Easy-to-Use Program Generator to design a custom prompt sequence, the user completes a simple form on the PC screen and enters: the various prompts, the order of the prompts, data validation criteria (for example: how many characters in response to each prompt, do you want numbers only, letters only, or alphanumeric data), and specifies if the records should be date/time stamped. After completing the form, the system generates the actual Portable Program, for user to download to the Portables when required.

An Application Program Generator is typically a part of a Data Collection System, which should also include the ability to download/upload programs/data to/from Portables, ability to print Barcodes, and ability to display/edit/delete/move/re-name collected data files on the PC.

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What's the best way to start printing Barcodes?

The best way to start printing Barcodes is to use your existing laser, ink jet or dot matrix printer.

In order to do this, you require a Barcode TrueType Font, which is very inexpensive. A Barcode TrueType Font provides the ability to print Barcodes directly from Word, WordPerfect, Access, FoxPro, Excel, or any other Windows program. Barcodes can be printed on labels or directly on documents.

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What's a Barcode TrueType Font?

A Barcode TrueType Font, is a font just like the ones you already have on your PC (Arial, Courier, Times New Roman). You install, select and use the Barcode fonts just like you would any other. The only difference is that when you display or print using the Barcode Fonts, instead of regular letters or numbers, you get bar and space patterns corresponding to the characters being typed (or displayed, or printed).

Like other TrueType fonts, the Barcode Fonts are fully scalable (you can make them as big or small as you want).

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What's a Barcode Direct Thermal Printer?

A Barcode Direct Thermal Printer is a label printer that prints images using heat to "burn" "dots" onto heat sensitive paper labels (just like the small calculator printers). Images printed using this technology are sensitive to heat, sun light, industrial ultra violet light, and applied pressure. These labels are only suited for short-life applications, as they will deteriorate over time. Do not consider Direct Thermal Printing for Fixed Asset Tracking or other long-life applications.

Direct Thermal Printers are typically less expensive that Thermal Transfer Printers, because they do not have the mechanisms and electronics required to control and manage an ink ribbon.

Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printer usually require "optional" Barcode Label Design and Print Software.

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What's a Barcode Thermal Transfer Printer?

A Barcode Thermal Transfer Printer is a label printer that prints images using heat to "melt" ink (from an ink-ribbon) onto a variety of paper and synthetic material labels. A wide variety of media and ribbon formulations are available, providing the ability to print Barcode labels for virtually any application, including very long-life and extreme environment applications.

Direct Thermal Printers are typically less expensive that Thermal Transfer Printers, because they do not have the mechanisms and electronics required to control and manage an ink ribbon.

Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printer usually require "optional" Barcode Label Design and Print Software.

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What's CODE 39 Barcode Format?

The CODE 39 Barcode Format (aka: 3 of 9) is the most commonly used Barcode Format because it enables numbers, upper case letters, and some punctuation marks (Capital Letters A-Z, Numbers 0-9, the "space" character, and the symbols:-,+,/,$,.,%) to be Barcoded. CODE 39 is a variable length format, allowing for encoding any number of digits. This format has become the standard for Government, Manufacturing, Barcode Industry, Education, and Business applications.

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What's Interleaved 2 of 5 Barcode Format?

The Interleaved 2 of 5 Barcode Format (aka: CODE 25) is a numeric only code that prints out a little larger than the UPC Barcode when ten digits are encoded. The Interleaved 2 of 5 is an excellent choice for numeric only applications, because it has the flexibility of having from 2 to 30 digits. The Interleaved 2 of 5 code requires an even numbers of digits to be encoded. A leading 0 must be added if the digit count is not even.

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What's CODE 128 Barcode Format?

The CODE 128 Barcode Format is a very compact Barcode for codes with all numeric information. Alphanumeric information can also be encoded, but at the expense of loosing the "very compact" benefit. The compact size of the Barcode printed with the CODE 128 when using only numeric digits is achived by using "double density" (two numbers are included in one character width). When alphanumeric data is encoded, however, CODE 128 uses "single density", and the Barcodes are twice as long. This is not a simple Barcode Format to use, as there are several CODE 128 subsets, each with specific specifications and limitations.

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What's the benefit of using Barcodes?

The benefits of using Barcodes for automated data collection are very simple: speed and accuracy. Time after time, it has been proven that entering Barcode data is at least 100 times faster and more accurate than traditional manual keyboard entry, which translates into a dramatic increase in efficiency and productivity for any operation.

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How do you start a Barcode Project?

After reviewing the information on this page, you'll have to agree that Barcode is an extremely simple technology. The starting investment is very minimal, and the potential benefits enormous. To start, all you need is the ability to print and read Barcodes, so you can start with a Barcode Font to print the Barcodes on your laser printer, and a Barcode Wand and Keyboard Wedge Decoder to read Barcodes directly into your PC software (Access, Excel, Word, or even the MS-DOS prompt).

It will probably take you five minutes to print and read your first Barcode, including the time to install the equipment and the Barcode Font.

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How do you print Barcodes from Access, Excel, Word, etc?

Printing Barcodes directly from Access, Excel, Word, WordPerfect or any other Windows program is very easy, when you use a Barcode Font. In fact, it is as easy as changing fonts. Basically, all you have to do is to select the specific Barcode Font you want to use (for the field, cell, or data you want to Barcode), on your Letter, Report, Form, Document, Label, etc. To change from your default text font to a specific Barcode Font, you use the same font selection window you normally use to change between your various text fonts, except that now you also have a Barcode Font to select from. You can also change the font size to suit your taste, just like with your other text fonts. Nothing could be easier.

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How do you read Barcodes into Access, Excel, Word, etc?

Reading Barcodes directly into Access, Excel, Word, or any other Windows (or MS-DOS) programs is very easy, when you use a Barcode Keyboard Wedge. Basically, all you have to do is to connect your Barcode Keyboard Wedge and Scanner between the Keyboard and your PC (No Special Software Required). With the Keyboard Wedge now installed, whenever you scan a Barcode, the data will automatically go directly where your cursor is. If your are using Access, the Barcode data will go directly to the active text box, when you are using Excel the data will go directly to the selected cell, if you are using Word, the data will go directly to where you cursor is positioned. Scanned Barcode data looks to your PC just as if it was typed on the Keyboard.

As an added automation feature, the Barcode Keyboard Wedge sends an "ENTER" character upon completion of reading the Barcode information, automatically advancing your cursor to the next text box (Access), cell (Excel), or line (Word).

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How do you update databases using Portable Barcode Readers?

Updating your Databases (Access, FoxPro, etc.) and Spreadsheets (Excel, Lotus, etc.) with data collected with Portables Barcode Readers is very easy. Basically, all you have to do is to connect your Portable to the PC, via an RS-232 Upload/Download cable, and activate the "UPLOAD DATA FROM PORTABLES" option on your data collection system. The uploaded collected data will be saved on a delimited ASCII text file on the PC.

When you activate the Import option on Access or Excel, you just specify the name and location of the file to import, and Access (or Excel) will ask you if you want it to create a new table (or spreadsheet) for the uploaded data, or if you want to append the data to an existing table (or spreadsheet). That's it.

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