This is a helpful “Start Here” article that guides you through all of the barcoding solutions we offer and helps you narrow down and select the product that’s right for your project.
The first question to ask is “What do I need the software for?”
- Barcode Production Software.
I need to print barcodes on labels, documents, tickets, etc. or generate barcodes in Windows applications or on the Internet.
Continue reading below.
- Barcode Data Collection Software
I need to collect data from barcode readers, magnetic stripe readers, RF data collection equipment, scales and other devices into my PC application programs and databases.
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- Database and Inventory Control Software.
I need to store data from my barcodes in my computer for inventory and other purposes. I need to look up recorded data, add, remove and change items, print recorded data and manipulate the saved data in various ways.
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Two questions that we frequently receive are “What is the difference between B-Coder, the Bar Code ActiveX Control and the Bar Code DLLs” and “What product should be used in which situations?”
B-Coder Pro is a bar code generating program that easily generates the highest quality graphic images of barcodes that you typically import or paste directly into other applications such as Microsoft Word, Adobe PageMaker, Quark, Microsoft Publisher, etc.
B-Coder Pro can save barcodes in any graphic format and supports has all the features of the Lite version but it also adds options into your Microsoft Word Tools menu to automate barcode production in Word. Easily convert text to bar codes in Word, do “mail merges” of barcodes into documents and labels, automatically convert existing data to barcodes, automate barcode labeling in Word and more. B-Coder Pro is the perfect tool for barcoding in MS Word. It supports all popular linear barcode types along with several 2-D bar codes and additional linear symbologies.
Barcode Tools for Programmers
The Barcode ActiveX Control and the Bar Code DLLs are designed as programmer tools. This means that you typically incorporate either the ActiveX control or the DLLs into an application that you are writing (using a programming language like Visual Basic, Microsoft Access, C++, Delphi, PowerBuilder etc.) and you then compile the application with the barcode functionality directly in your application.
After you compile your application, you have a license to redistribute or install the ActiveX control or the DLLs with your application on up to 10,000 other workstations royalty free. For example, suppose that you are writing a program in Visual Basic or Microsoft Access and you want to incorporate barcode printing capabilities into the application and you also want to be able to install the application on multiple workstations or resell the application to others without having to purchase a license for each copy of the application that you plan to distribute. The ActiveX control or the DLLs would be ideal for this type of situation. The primary difference between the ActiveX control and the barcode DLLs is in how you interface your application to them. The ActiveX control uses the Microsoft ActiveX control interface therefore it is much easier to use than the barcode DLLs however it requires that the programming language that you are using must support ActiveX Control technology.
All of Microsoft’s programming languages including Visual Basic, C++, VBA in Access, Excel, Word and PowerPoint all support ActiveX controls therefore it is extremely easy to use ActiveX controls in these environments. Most other programming languages also support ActiveX controls as well including Delphi, PowerBuilder, etc.
The Bar Code DLLs (Dynamic Link Libraries) require more complex program code in order to be used from within a programming language like Visual Basic or C++ however they have a few small advantages. DLLs use much less internal overhead because none of the OLE or ActiveX control interface libraries are required. They are also somewhat smaller in size. The ActiveX control will add roughly 400Kb to the size of your application whereas the DLLs use only about 30Kb for each different type of barcode that you use. The DLLs also provide a little lower level control over how your barcodes are created and where they are stored in memory or how they are printed. The DLLs are also able to encode pure binary data in a barcode symbol. Although most barcode applications normally only encode text or numbers in bar codes, there are a few applications for bar codes where it may be necessary to encode binary data in a barcode symbol.
In general, you can determine which product to use based on what you need to accomplish.
If you just need to create a few barcode graphic images that you will be importing or pasting into some other program like Word, Publisher, PageMaker, Illustrator, Quark, Adobe Acrobat or any other desktop publishing or document creation program, B-Coder Pro easily creates the highest quality barcodes for you.
If you want to automate barcoding in MS Word, B-Coder Pro is the perfect tool for the job. If you want to print barcodes from reports or labels in Microsoft Access or if you are writing a Visual Basic, C++ or Delphi application that you want to print barcodes from, then the barcode ActiveX control would be the best choice.
If you are developing a complex application in C or C++ and you require low level control over your barcodes or if you need to encode binary data in your barcodes then the barcode DLLs would be the best choice.
The type of data collection software you need depends primarily on your barcode scanner output. There are several popular types of output:
- Keyboard Wedge output or USB output
If your barcode scanner has Keyboard Wedge output or USB output you will not need special data collection software. Both these outputs will dump the data right into the foreground application on your PC wherever the cursor is flashing, as if it were being typed in. You do not usually get much control except for the addition of a trailing keystroke, such as an ENTER key, to your data. But these methods are very simple and work fine for many people.
- RS232 output (includes some RFID scanners)
RS232 output is characterized by either a 9 or 25 pin rectangular connector plug. It attaches to one of the COM ports on your PC. If you have this type of output you will need additional software in order to collect data from the barcode scanner directly into most Windows applications. For this purpose we developed BC-Wedge software (short for Bar Code Wedge). It inputs data directly into your Windows or DOS applications as if the data were being typed in – in many ways similar to a Keyboard or Keyboard Wedge. It is extremely easy to use and the perfect solution for most RS232 barcode users.
For those RS232 barcode users needing more options we have WinWedge 32 Std, WinWedge 32 Pro and DOS-Wedge Pro. These advanced versions offer sophisticated data parsing, filtering and formatting, date and time stamps, 2-way I/O (for RFID), keystroke macro insertion, data translation and much more.
- TCP/IP output (includes some RFID scanners)
TCP/IP compatible devices typically connect to an Ethernet network. If you have this type of output you will need additional software in order to collect data from the bar code scanner directly into most Windows applications. TALtech developed TCP-Wedge to collect data from TCP/IP ports (i.e. a device connected to a TCP/IP port) directly into any Windows application. It has all the advanced data parsing, filtering, formatting, 2-way communications, etc. of WinWedge Pro and ships as part of the WinWedge 32 Pro package.
A database of some type is the most important part of any bar code system. The whole purpose of the bar codes is to eliminate slow, error-prone manual entry of data into a database – whether this is a cash register database, an inventory database, a library database, or any other database.
The database can be:
- A user configured general database such as Access, Oracle or others.
- An “off-the-shelf” program designed for a specific application such as Inventory control.
- A custom database that could be developed in any programming language.
Microsoft Access comes with a sample Inventory database. For small, simple inventories you can download a FREE inventory management spreadsheet for Microsoft Excel from our downloads page. This is very simple and adequate for many users. However if you need a more sophisticated database, Excel is not the right application. Access, or another true database application, is much more powerful.
Many databases do not have support for RS232 scanners directly (such as the FREE Excel example above). However BC-Wedge or WinWedge provide powerful interfaces to RS232 scanners from any application.