Customers often ask for help when they are creating barcodes with more than just a simple payload. When you’re creating a label with multiple data elements (ex. SSCC-18 label, FedEx Shipping Label, etc) the specification may require non-printable characters, data identifiers, application identifiers, group separators or some other craziness you’re not used to printing. Don’t panic!
Here are some tips:
Get the Specification Details
The details matter. Download the specification documentation and read it. The most valuable part is anything that diagrams the data (fig 1). This is the roadmap to your destination.
Create the Hex Characters as Constants
Those pesky non-printable characters, AIs and codes can be setup as constants so that they’re easy to add to formulas and string concatenations for when you’re building the barcode payload. These types of things are static and there is no reason to introduce possible error by typing them over and over. Note that the codes for creating something like the FNC1 may differ by printer manufacturer.
The Human Readable
Because our eyes and brains don’t read barcodes, the “human readable” is often included with a barcode. You must remember that what you see is NOT what you get here. Often, human helpers like brackets, parenthesis and spaces are used so you and I can see the data better. They are not usually in the encoded barcode.
Use a Scanner and Interrogation Software
You do not have to submit your barcode label and hope that it’s compliant. Get a USB scanner (for 1D barcodes) or imager (for 1D and 2D barcodes) and use some interrogation software (If you qualify, see ID Automations Free Barcode Scanner ASCCI String Decoder) to see inside the barcode and know you’re compliant before you send it off. This will save iterations, time, and money.