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Choosing a Barcode Scanner

There are many factors to consider when choosing a barcode scanner. If you have used a particular barcode scanner in the past, or have a good recommendation from someone that is using a barcode scanner for a similar application, then it may make the most sense to just shop by brand or search for the exact part number.

In most cases though, it is beneficial to answer these questions before you make any purchases.

If you are planning to use the barcode scanner to replace keystroke entry, are the keystrokes short, repetitive pieces of data or are they longer more complex packets of data?
Typically, what distance will the barcode scanner be from the barcode when scanning?
Are the barcodes you are scanning one (1D) or two (2D) dimensional?
Will the scanner be in a fixed position, or will the operator pick it up to scan the barcode?
How far away from the PC will the scanner need to be able to reach?

After you answer the above questions, and understand the following about barcode scanner technology, the more successful you will be in choosing a barcode scanner for your application.

1D or One-Dimensional Barcode – Barcodes with vertical lines, or bars, that are what most people probably think of when they picture a barcode. With these linear barcodes, data is encoded in a horizontal line similar to words written on a page. 1D barcodes hold smaller amounts of data like serial numbers or item names and are typically used for identification, inventory management and asset trackingpurposes in various industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, warehousing, shipping and electronics.

2D or Two-Dimensional Barcode – A 2 dimensional barcode stores data both horizontally as well as vertically and must be read in its entirety from side to side and top to bottom for the barcode scanner to be able to decipher the contents. 2D barcodes are becoming popular especially in applications where the space available is small in relation to the amount of data that must be encoded. It is interesting to know that the entire Gettysburg Address can be encoded into a 2D barcode the size of a postage stamp.

Tethered Barcode Scanners – 90% of all barcode scanner applications are relatively simple as they are designed to replace the manual keyboard entry on a PC/cash register. In this scenario, the barcode scanner “wedges” its output into the stream normally reserved for the keyboard. This is why you will sometimes hear tethered barcode scanners being referred to as keyboard wedge scanners. Replacing keyed entry is the quickest way to reduce labor costs and ensure accuracy using barcode scanners.

Cordless Barcode Scanners – With virtually the same look, feel and functionality as a corded barcode scanner, cordless barcode scanners are ideal in situations where the operator will routinely be more than 6 feet away from the PC while scanning or works in an environment where the cord could be cumbersome or even dangerous. The cordless barcode scanner communicates wirelessly to the PC either via Bluetooth or WiFi. As such, the battery requires frequent charging (after each shift) in heavy use applications.

Fixed Mount Barcode Scanners – As the name suggests, fixed mount scanners are designed to stay in the same place and the barcodes are passed in front of them. These are commonly found in grocery stores, large retail chains and are also widely used in conveyor, packaging and shipping operations.


Still need assistance in selecting a barcode scanner? Contact Us and Speak to a AB&R Specialist, 800-281-3056.