Learn How to Scan a Barcode

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Learn How to Scan a Barcode

by Nate Schubert

When it comes to barcode technology as a whole, the task of generating a barcode is decidedly more complicated than scanning one. Although this may be true, it in no way indicates that scanning a barcode is always going to be easy. Any number of things can go wrong at one of the various steps in the process, and it pays to know what you’re doing if you want to be successful.

Is the barcode scanner properly connected to the computer?

All barcode scanners must be connected in some way to a computer, mobile device or tablet where possible. The most common connection type is USB and corded scanners will usually come with a USB cable that connects the scanner to the computer. USB is an excellent connection type because it handles most of the installation on it’s own. Other connections such as RS232 or Keyboard Wedge can be more difficult to set up due to issues like the order in which the connection was made. For example, keyboard wedge scanners must be connected to a powered-down computer. Then, when the computer is powered up, the scanner will operate normally. USB connections can be plugged in and unplugged at any time.
Wireless scanners can be connected to a computer in a couple of different ways. Some scanners have cradles that must be connected to a computer, and often a wall-power source. Scanned data goes from the handheld scanner to the communication/charging cradle, and is then passed to the computer. Other wireless scanners have a Bluetooth connection which connects the scanner wirelessly to the computer. Finally, portable memory scanners can store all scanned data for later batch transfer into a computer, usually via USB cable and .csv or .txt format.

Do you have a program open to scan the barcoded data into?

Barcode scanners work in conjunction with programs that allow data to be typed into them. Most barcode scanners have a feature called keyboard emulation which allows data to move seamlessly from the scan gun into an application where the data will be output wherever the cursor is located. In other words, make sure you’ve got a program like Word, Excel or Notepad open and that you can see where the cursor is located.
While the above mentioned applications are good for scanning barcode data into, it goes without saying that these scanners will also output scanned data into virtually any other application including FileMaker or SSRS databases, Crystal Reports, Access, and even fields on a web page.

It’s Time to Test Your Barcode Scanner!

When you have the scanner connected to the computer, and have an application open to scan the data into, it is time to test. If you don’t already have a barcode to scan, you can create one of your own using our free barcode image generator. When you’re ready, point the scanner at the barcode and click! Most scanners will notify a scan with a beep. You should see the data output onto the computer screen as if it had been typed on the keyboard. Some barcodes contain function commands such as tab. When you scan those, you’ll see the data populate one cell in a spreadsheet or database, and then tab over to another field and output more data.
If you achieved an accurate scan, congratulations! You’re ready to get to work. If you failed to successfully scan your barcode, there are a few things you can check for:
  • Can your scanner read the barcode you are trying to scan? While most scanners can read many linear barcodes by default,  not all do. Check your scanner programming guide to make sure your scanner can read the type of barcode you need to scan. If it does, check the user manual to determine how you can activate that feature.
  • Was the barcode created correctly?
    Some barcodes require special encoding to tell the scanner where the barcode begins and ends. Without that special data, the barcode scanner cannot achieve a successful read.
  • Is your scanner connected properly?
    Check to make sure the connection from the cord to the scanner is secure and that the USB connection is securely connected to the port on your computer.

When All Else Fails…

If you’ve been through all of the steps and still can’t achieve an accurate scan, try contacting the company you purchased the scanner from. IDAutomation can offer technical assistance on purchased scanners via telephone, email, online chat or our special support forum. We provide easy programming guides for common uses on our scanners and a generous return policy if the scanner does not meet your needs. We also provide some useful video tutorials including our most recent which demonstrates how to scan barcodes using the IDAutomation USB Barcode Scanner: