The complete solution for designing barcodes: Barcode Studio

Austrian Tec-It develops what is the most powerful desktop barcode creation app on the market and I got a chance to try it out.

Barcode Studio creates more than 100 different barcode symbologies, including linear, 2D, postal and GS1 composite barcodes. It allows you to adjust every single parameter and create barcodes as image files or vector graphics with the ability to save them, export them to the clipboard and print them. It also supports batch barcode generation from an existing list or manually entered data.

The app comes in two licensing versions: a licence for 1D barcodes only or a more expensive one for 1D and 2D barcodes. I tested the 2D version.

First, some serious criticism — and I know Mac users are always hitting the same nail on the head, but it’s important to us, so here it is: Barcode Studio seems to be a direct port from Windows and the interface looks like it — dated. Retina resolution is nowhere to be found and its looks aren’t going to win awards.

Its functionality and the way the features guide you towards generating well-formed barcodes for all thinkable purposes are a different story and while I’m at it, a warning is in place: it’s always a bad idea to resize, skew or otherwise interfere with a correctly generated barcode. Doing so will ruin the readability and probably the compliance with industrial standards as well. Exactly that is the reason why you need a barcode editor like Barcode Studio.

Tec-It’s app is very powerful, including creative capabilities within the strict confines of barcode standards. Its Data Input Assistant allows you to enter the barcode data in different formats. Depending on your selection, a different input mask will be shown. If you select a business card format, it will show the corresponding input fields for first name, last name, company, etc.

Select the GS1 format and it will show a table for editing the single Application Identifiers in the barcode. Barcode Studio will correctly format the barcode data automatically. If you need more flexibility or have a specific need, Barcode Studio also lets you specify your own data formats, although you’ll need Tec-It’s assistance with that job.

Barcode Studio’s interface may not win beauty contests, but it does work well and is quite intuitive to use, even when things get a bit complicated. For example, printing barcodes (or anything else, but with barcodes it matters a lot) on an inkjet printer can create problems with the ink being absorbed by the paper. This tends to diffuse the bars. Barcode Studio lets you easily set a bar width reduction to counter the spread of the ink and, as it is a quite complex matter, the excellent user guide tells you exactly how to do it.

You’ve probably seen them, barcodes — mostly QR-codes — that have logos embedded in them. Well, Barcode Studio supports the embedding of logos but warns against them as it can hamper readability.

Unlike other barcode editors on the Mac, Barcode Studio supports two captions above and two captions below barcodes where captions make sense. It does so with an extra capability: the distance setting may be less than zero. That allows you to print captions within the barcode or on the same line with another caption.

With some 2D barcodes like MaxiCode and Data Matrix, for example, the standard allows you to concatenate data in two or more of these barcodes when the amount of data overruns the allowed number of characters. Barcode Studio supports something that’s called “Structured Append” which allows you to divide larger quantities of data into several symbols that are joined by the scanner at readout time.

Of course, Barcode Studio has a sequence generator as well. The sequence generator allows you to generate serial numbers.

Another nice touch is that the app has a URL Shortener service in the Options dialogue panel. If you use Bit.ly, for example, and you want a QR-code that opens a webpage when people scan it to be small and route them via Bit.ly’s analytics feature, you can do so from within Barcode Studio.

Finally, I was quite taken by Barcode Studio’s capability to print barcodes on labels. Not only does the app support more than the usual Avery labels, also adding Zweckform and Herma to their supported brands, but it also integrates with the barcode editing modules. That means you’ll never print labels of barcodes that can’t be read. When a barcode is too big for a label, the app will tell you so, enabling you to find the suitable size and ratio for your label sheet.

There’s a lot more that I can keep going on about, including the ability to colourise your barcodes with respect to readability, the availability of templates, and more.

If you need a barcode generator that’s a full-scale editor — be it that you’re a brochure designer or a Mac user who wants to label archival media with self-made barcodes — Barcode Studio won’t disappoint. It retails at a mere €84.

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