dLSoft  barcode & labelling software     

Barcode font or Picture
 ..... Which to use?

Barcode fonts sound simple. Just type a number or some text, change the font to the required barcode font and there you have it?

Not exactly! The nearest you can get to this is with Code 39 barcodes (and one or two of the older code types). To create the Code 39 barcode for ABC123 you simply produce *ABC123* and display/print it in the Code 39 font (including the * characters which are the start and stop characters). Only Code 39, Code B and Codabar are that straightforward.

Most other barcode types either
a) require one or more checkdigit characters to be included in the barcode, or
b) do not have a one-to-one correspondence between text characters and barcode patterns. For example, Code 128 uses the same group of bars to represent three different things - depending on what the previous characters were. EAN and UPC codes use different groups of bars to represent the same number depending on whereabouts in the barcode that number appears

So apart from a limited number of barcode types, turning characters into barcodes usually requires some calculation - and at the very least the inclusion of a start and a stop character.

Our Barcode Fonts for Windows are supplied with a simple program (dFont Helper) which translates the source text into the characters required to produce just the right barcode. The Visual Basic source of this program is provided for use with your own programs - and its sufficiently simple that it can be translated into most other languages. Each font pack also includes both a DLL and an Active X component which hide all the translation into a single DLL/OCX call, and source code examples in VB6, VB.NET and C#.  Our support page contains several additional examples.

The Universal Barcode Font kit can produce most barcodes with a single DLL/OCX call - but does not provide human readable characters under the bars (except for the GS1 barcode types EAN-13, EAN-8 and UPC-A).

Our 2D barcode fonts are supplied complete with both a DLL and an Active-X component, one of which needs to be called to translate the data into the considerably more complex text required to represent Aztec, Datamatrix PDF417 or QR Code barcodes.

All our multi-user font products include an embedding licence so that fonts may be embedded into Acrobat or font objects may be embedded into web pages.

What about pictures?

The problem with fonts is that they are not as versatile as pictures. There are not an infinite variety of height/width ratios. The width of the bars in not infinitely variable. The text under the barcode changes size with the bar height, and in any case is fixed in appearance. Not only that you need a different barcode font for each type of barcode you wish to make.

Pictures on the other hand are extremely versatile, vector format images (such as EPS and Windows metafile pictures) offering the ultimate in quality, and bitmap formats (such as BMP, PNG, TIF etc) offering virtually universal support. Pictures may be created with borders, backgrounds, spread-out, bold or italic text, and using any text font you have available. They can be saved into files, positioned exactly on a page, resized to fit in those awkward places, and created so fast that you don't even have to think about it.

For users we have the Barcode & Labels for Office products for supporting Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and ccess), Barcode Tools for Crystal Reports, and there is a range of barcode tools for creating creating graphic images in other environments.

For developers we have components for generating barcode images in a variety of languages, both for application development or for web sites..

So what's the answer?

Our advice is usually: use a picture where possible and a font where you cannot use a picture.
See Our recommendations for specific applications.