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Barcode scanners are not a one-size-fits-all item. Learn how to choose the right barcode scanner.

Barcode scanners are used to read barcodes. However, because there are so many different types of barcodes, it is necessary to choose the right scanner to fit your needs. While this might seem like a daunting task, answering the following questions will help you make the right choice.

  • Consider the type of barcode that will be scanned. Is it one dimensional or two? This is essential information too have when choosing a scanner.
  • How far will the scanner be from the code being scanned? Some scanners have short cords while others are completely wireless.
  • What type of barcode symbologies will be read? Barcode scanners are typically programmed to only read specific symbologies.
  • Will the barcode scanner be used to replace the keyboard entry on a desktop PC? If so, identify the most commonly used keystrokes before purchasing a barcode scanner.
  • How will the barcode scanner connect to the system? What will it connect to and how will the data transfer to its destination? Where is the data going?
  • Are there any special requirements in terms of formatting? Will the data encoded in the barcode scanner transfer to the computer the same way?
  • Will the people using the barcodes be with the scanner or will they have to "point and shoot" to get the code to register?

Once you have answered these questions, consider your connectivity options for corded barcode scanners:

  • USB
    These ports are commonly found on desktop PC's and are generally the most convenient connectivity to use.

  • Keyboard Wedge
    This was the most popular connector before USB. It connects a Y-shaped cable with the PS-2 Keyboard port.

  • RS232 Serial
    This connectivity allows the scanner to connect to the computer over a serial port.

  • Interface Controller
    This connectivity requires special proprietary equipment in order to connect the scanner to the computer system.

Finally, consider the two basic kinds of barcode scanners:

Point and Shoot: These are handheld models used for a variety of tasks such as scanning large items that are too heavy to scan with the Sit and Scan model or for packages and other items that need to be scanned when no Sit and Scan scanner is available. The person operating this scanner will have to be within registering distance and aim the scanner flat at the barcode in order for it to work correctly.

Sit and Scan: These scanners are typically found in grocery and retail stores and are used with cash registers to assist in the checkout process. Many registers also come with a Point and Shoot scanner for larger items. The person operating the scanner slides the barcode across the scanner in order to get it to register.

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