There will be masses of developers in the community who have done this. There are lots of different ways of achieving what you are trying to do and some of it will be trial and error and what works best for you. For us we use a code 3of 9 font, Dymo label printers and Cino BT FuzzyScanners which are bluetooth (there is a pdf available from their site to get these to work with ios devices).
Over the last few years we have played with other things like creating the barcode within fm without the need for installing the barcode font but went back to using the barcode font and also before we got the fuzzyscans we brought some much smaller/cuter Scanfobs bluetooth scanners - (the batteries on the larger fuzzyscans lasted longer at stocktake time) - at the end of day it all comes down to what works in your situation. There are pros and cons for each, the scanfobs make it easier to get the onscreen keyboard back by pushing a small button whereas with the fuzzyscans you need to scan a barcode (which we have printed and have taped to the devices), the movement between the scanner and onscreen keyboard is one of the detractors and we are trying to invent better ways to make it so the users don't have to access the onscreen keyboard at stocktake time... when we want everything to work fluidly.
Creating the barcodes are really very simple as you are just displaying a text field on a layout and then setting the font of the field to be the barcode font. We went for a code 3of9 font that also shows the text under the barcode, that way if there is an issue with scanning you can still manually type the code. If you go for something like the Dymo printer then you just need to set up a print layout that works for the stickers you are going to us, again there are lots of people in the community who are doing this so you should be able to get some good advice once you have decided on the hardware you are going to use.
The great thing about filemaker and script triggers is that you can definitely get it to do things like set other fields after the barcode is scanned. There are some tricks to this like making sure that your scanner is putting in a Return or LF character after each scan and setting the field behavior appropriately so that it exits the field after each scan.
Best of luck with developing your solution, I am sure you will be able to locate some demo's, I have one I was putting together for someone but it is not fully completed yet and I am certainly not an expert like some of the wonderful guru's in the community.
Hi, Kevin. If you want a solution that does not require plugins or fonts, you can take a look at my Code128 custom function in my documents section. It is a free solution also. You'll find all my docs if you search for the tag 'ronsmithmd' which is the easy way to find them. We use both Intelliscan (http://www.intelliscanner.com) wired and wireless scanners in the office for different functions. We barcode and label all vaccines and scan them at injection time. We print on schedule 2 controlled substance prescriptions with our own custom barcode label affixed. The DEA now requires these to be printed on serialized, copy prevention paper. We scan the barcode and collect the parent's signature with Autograph capture at the same time and these are recorded automatically with the correct patient barcode which is printed on that same prescription.
You have to evaluate what's best for you. There are some great plugins out there and the font solutions work too. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but it is really great that there are so many options.
Ron Smith, MD
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From my experience of barcode scanning, I recommend that you test carefully any BlueTooth Barcode scanner with an iPad before you commit irrevocably to that combination. IMO a MacBook Air, with its twin USB ports, and a USB Barcode Scanner is a better configuration for repetitive scanning, especially if you need to enter either text or numeric data before or after each barcode scan. USB peripherals, such as a receipt printer are invariably much cheaper than their BlueTooth or WIFI counterparts and this can compensate for the higher price of a MacBook Air when compared with an iPad.
We plumped for the SixFriedRice barcode plugin inplace of a font and are very pleased with its performance. It produces very sharp images from our Dymo Labelwriter when compared with a free font that we used previously. It's certainly not as cheap as Ron's CF but well worth your consideration.
I hope this helps,
I concur with John, if you are in an environment where users need things to "just work" a laptop and usb connected barcode scanner is definitely the way to go. We too have found this to be far more reliable than using ipads and bluetooth.
We certainly had some connectivity issues and because staff were new users to the ipads they really struggled to get things going again if they lost the bluetooth or wireless connection. There happened to be a "Bermuda triangle" in one area of the store and everytime they walked past it everything would drop out and it would take a couple of minutes to get them back into the server hosted database. We tried putting a "wireless booster" in but still had this dead spot and there was obviously something running some interference there. The previous year when we used the laptop they fared better as it was a closer match to what they used year round for sales.
Also John makes a good point about using laptops if they are needing to enter text or numeric data (like quantities!) between each scan as it is a real nuisance to have to toggle between the scanner and onscreen keyboard. You can build an onscreen keyboard but you need the onscreen real estate to do this! Even apple does not try to get the alpha and numeric keys all on one keyboard layout.
One of the things we have faced is that barcode scanners "beep" when they have scanned a barcode regardless if anything meaningful has happened in your database. Too often users go by these auditory cues and fail to notice any onscreen messages that have been generated because the database has not been able to locate a matching stock record etc.
Again it is about what you are using it for... but when stocktaking via scanner you get into real trouble if they have merrily continued to scan while your database has spent the last couple of minutes waiting for them to notice an onscreen message about that code not being valid etc. At sales time this is not such an issue as shop staff tend to notice when something has not been added to an invoice and they are working at a different pace. Interestingly because they were "holding" the ipads as opposed to the laptops which were on trolleys they seemed to fare better last year... or perhaps they had remembered being burnt the previous year!
We also use scanners to scan student assignments into a tracking system. Again if they are doing a few hundred at once you really need to train them to make sure they monitor that the scans are actually being written back to the db. I have learnt the hard way to make sure I am giving good onscreen feedback about what was last scanned in environments were users are doing a large number of repetitive scans.
Sometimes you can write a "fabulous" solution but until you see how users interact with it and the devices it is hosted on... it is really hard to predict its success.