What barcode symbology should I use?

The best barcode to use depends greatly on how you’re intending to use it.  Barcode fonts are great, but none of them are as simple to use as changing the font of a block of text in Microsoft Word.


Code 39 is probably the simplest font, but you need to add an asterisk before and after the barcode.  So, to print a barcode that says 1234, you need to specify it as *1234* – the asterisks are turned into special “start and stop” characters that are needed to create a valid Code 39 barcode.  If you don’t add them, what you end up with may look like a barcode, but it won’t be valid and the barcode scanner will not scan it.


Code 128 can create shorter barcodes than Code 39, but you need to add calculated check-digits into the code, so it’s not possible without some kind of helper application, or a dedicated barcode printing software package.  If the correct check-digits and Code 128 specific start and stop characters (not asterisks like Code 39) are not there, the barcode will not be readable.


UPC/EAN product barcodes are also available as a font, but they’re quite like Code 128 in that they need a special start code, a special code in the middle, and a special stop code, as well as needing a calculated check-digit.  Again, leave the important bits out and it won’t work.


Most other barcodes are similar, and not easy to create by hand.


If you want to occasionally make a word document with a couple of barcodes in it that you’re going to type in by hand, AND you want to print it on an A4 sheet of plain paper in a laser printer, AND you don’t need anything in the barcode other than numbers and upper case letters (no spaces or lower case letters or punctuation), then a Code 39 font is probably easiest, since all you need to do is add an asterisk at each end of the code.  Sizing the font to 24-point will probably give you something readable.  ASP has our own Code 39 font – Just drop us a line for more information.


If you need to print a few sticky labels, I think some of the cheap label-makers that office equipment suppliers stock have barcode capability.  You need to think about the application as the durability of these labels may not be suitable – ASP can also guide you through that as well.  At the other end of the scale, dedicated barcode label printers and label printing software can churn out quality labels all day long every day.


Otherwise, if you just want to contact us and let us know exactly what you want to create and where the data that you want to print is coming from, we can probably come up with something workable for you.


We’re currently writing an eguide on everything barcodes including QR Code but we hope this has assisted you for now.  Please check back in a few months.