Handheld Help: How to Choose the Best Barcode Scanner for Your Needs

At some point, manual entry becomes a chore. That’s when you know you need to pick up a barcode scanner. Here’s how to make the right choice.


Why Are You Using It?


This is important. Why do you need a barcode scanner? Is it because you actually have a lot to input into a computer or do you just hate data entry? Knowing why you want to have a barcode scanner will make it easier for you to decide what to get or if it even makes sense to get one.


In general, a scanner is going to benefit you the most if you’ve got a lot of batch processing to do and you don’t have the manpower for manual data entry. Let’s say you’re cataloging things while on vacation or you’re a hobbyist trying to collect information about various species of birds or butterflies.


Doing manual data entry is not only boring, but might be impossible, practically speaking.


Do You Need Software? If Yes, What Do You Need?


Your choice of software is important, but do you actually need it? If you’re processing only a few items per month, you might be able to get away with a simple program that catalogs entries in a spreadsheet. However, if you need something more extensive with complex data handling abilities, this asset tracking software might be more appropriate.


What Kind Of Barcodes Do You Want To Read?


Do you plan on scanning simple linear codes or do you need something that can handle images, like 2D and QR codes?


Linear barcodes are the type you’re probably used to seeing – they contain little vertical lines stacked up next to each other and a series of numbers underneath. They’re used for simple data entry and manipulation, but the information they can store is strictly limited.


QR codes and 2D codes are more complex. They store a vast array of data, including images, and even web addresses. Because of this, they can be used to condense information on printed materials. The data is also dynamic, meaning you can assign it to something different using back-end coding and software changes. This makes this type of code much more valuable for people who want to be able to manipulate dynamic data, as opposed to the static, limited, data of simple linear codes.


Buy The Highest Quality You Can Afford


Like anything else, you should spend as much on your scanner as you can reasonably afford. Don’t get too carried away with things, but at the same time don’t skimp because you find a “good deal.”


2D scanners can cost several hundred dollars more than linear ones, and you’ll pay more for quality. You also get more, but you may not necessarily need the extras.


Lastly, scanners come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so choose the one that fits your needs best. There are smallish pen-style scanners, and on the other end of the spectrum are hands-free fixed or mountable scanners made for industrial or commercial applications. In-between, you’ll find wearable scanners, “gun”-type scanners, and wireless scanners.


Greg Williams is an inventory and warehouse worker. He likes to write about his experiences online. Look for his articles on many business sites.


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