Does creating a bar code sound like a job better left to a specialized software program? For many companies that's true, but for others there's a lower (or no) cost option that's right at your fingertips.
Workhorse Microsoft Word, found on a majority of business and personal computers in the United States, offers plenty of bar code functionality without the added expense and hassle of a dedicated program. You can use a variety of bar code fonts, depending on the data that will go into the bar codes.
Here's how you can get started creating bar codes in Word.
(1) Pick your bar code format.
While there are many different bar code formats to choose from, you need to consider how much data will be encoded and how the completed bar codes will be used. Are you just creating bar codes for in-house scanning, or will they be read by customers or vendors?
Popular (and simpler) choices include Code 39 and 128 and Intelligent Mail bar codes.
Used to encode the routing ZIP code and tracking information needed by the United States Postal Service, Intelligent Mail codes must now be used by companies wishing to qualify for automation pricing.
Code 39 and 128 can include letters (uppercase), numbers, and various special characters. Once you have the completed format, it's time to look for a font.
(2) Download the appropriate bar code font.
You can find available bar code fonts by searching online. Both free and paid options are available, depending on the bar code format you plan to create.
Download the zip file, extract the font file, and add it to Microsoft Word.
An example is IDAutomation's Free Code 39 Barcode Font which can be used by qualifying organizations.
(3) Create the encoding for your bar code.
Different bar code formats require that you enter leading and trailing symbols before applying the bar code font. For example, the Code 39 bar code needs an asterisk (*) before and after your bar code text.
Be careful when using Microsoft Word, as the software has the tendency to add extra spaces which will destroy the integrity of the code.
(4) Test the completed bar code(s).
Probably the most overlooked part of the process, testing ensures that the one-dimensional codes can be read by a scanner. Print some sample bar codes with your preferred printers and make sure they are readable.
When producing bar codes, you can also find add-ins which will turn Microsoft Word into a full-featured bar code application with easy to use toolbars.
One example is Bars & Stripes Bar Coding Software. Another is the Code 128 Barcode Add-In for Microsoft Word. Or the TBarCode Office add-in that encodes all common formats including one and two-dimensional bar codes.
Take some time to experiment with various bar code fonts and software additions, to find the one that fits best with your business and your product. And you'll be creating bar codes in Word in no time.
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