The purpose of a barcode scanner is to scan or read a barcode symbol and then provide an electrical output to a computer via a decoder and cable. The decoder recognizes the type of barcode symbology it is seeing, translates the bar and space content and transmits data to a computer in a human readable format.
You do not need special software to retrieve barcode information. Much like how the human brain works and we understand what a number, letter or picture means, the decoder puts barcodes into usable context. Often times it can simply drop data into Excel or Access databases. For more complex requirements, you may need special application software to put that data into inventory records, for shipping and receiving files or for monitoring work-in-process. If you want to print barcodes from that downloaded data, you will also need special printing software such as BarTender® to transfer the human readable back into barcodes.
Twenty plus years ago, you might have had a barcode scanner that could only read two or three types of barcodes. If you wanted to read a special barcode you would have had to go out and find another type of scanner. Fortunately, as technology improved and more and more barcodes were created, scanners were also developed to read a wider variety of barcodes in both one and two dimensional formats and then “auto-discriminate” (in other words, automatically determine) the symbology it is reading and then properly interpret the content.
So what type of scanner is best for you? We suggest you read our article about the different types of popular scanners. As you can see, it will depend to a great extent on whether you can work with a tethered scanner directly wired to your computer or whether you need more mobility. The scanning distance and the types of barcodes you want to scan will also narrow down your options. Not sure which scanner is right for you? Contact our Label Experts for further assistance.