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I want to print bar codes in a document to be printed on
an ordinary printer…
With the increase in office automation and the growing use of applications
such as document tracking and workflow monitoring, there has been
a steady growth in users wishing to incorporate bar codes into documents
they are printing. Sometimes the easiest solution is to stick a
previously printed label onto the document, but this is not always
possible or desirable.
Using Windows bar code fonts
The widespread use of Microsoft Windows has led to bar code TrueType
fonts for Windows becoming available, either separately or as part
of labelling packages.
Using these fonts can be an apparently easy way to incorporate bar
codes in documents that are being produced in Windows applications.
However, it is not always that simple and some care needs to be
Firstly, not all bar code symbologies lend themselves to being adequately
or correctly represented as individual characters in a font. The
Interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF - see page 8) symbology for example encodes
two digits in each of its elements, so it is, strictly speaking,
impossible to represent a single digit character in an ITF font.
Windows-based bar code labelling packages know this and handle the
ITF font accordingly, but your word processor and spreadsheet packages
Similarly, fonts that use special start and stop codes, and those
capable of representing non-printable ASCII characters, can also
If you want to use Windows fonts, the best advice is to stick to
the symbologies that do encode individual characters and do not
have complex start and stop code sequences. Probably the most popular
symbology in this respect is Code 39 (see page 8). Often, however,
Code 39 fonts don't allow check digits. It is worth finding a font
that allows check digits to be built in, as without these, Code
39 can be susceptible to misreads.
Poor and incorrect use of fonts is probably now becoming one of
the most common reasons for the apparent "failure" of
bar codes to read. However, software packages are now becoming available
that are specially designed to overcome these difficulties. Rather
than function as labelling packages or just simple fonts, these
packages know the rules about constructing valid bar codes. Once
the software has designed the bar code it can simply be pasted into
the main Windows application (via the Windows clipboard). More advanced
users can also use these packages via Windows DDE to automate the
process (such a package was used to produce the bar codes in this