Recommended portable barcode systems

Don't be intimidated by the technology required to use barcodes. If you are entering your inventory manually then all that is standing between you and a faster inventory work is an expenditure of $100-$1,000 for a barcode-capable PDA and a few minutes of learning how to use it, provided you have a proper inventory database on your PC.
Janam XP30

When choosing a PDA, there are several options available. The older Symbol 1500 (that had an excellent linear laser scanner) is not available anymore, and there are faster, more modern (and far more expensive) devices available today. Grabba scanners are compatible with many of today's hand held computers but we only tested their excellent U-1 model that is no loger available, so we can't personally recommend the newer ones.

A Janam XP30 is an excellent Palm OS based scanner that works with Pendragon Forms out of the box. Its area imaging scanner works great with all barcodes we tried, including our custom high density Code 128 labels that are usually challenging to lesser scanners.

The Symbol MC70 is also a very capable device that is available in a bewildering array of options, including a great linear laser scanner. In testing the MC70 against the XP30 we found that the Windows Mobile based MC70 may appear ever so slightly slower running Pendragon Forms than the Palm OS based XP30. This subtle difference is likely from the "fade-in" Windows Mobile interface.

The main real difference between the two units is, the MC70 is able to read barcodes from slightly greater distance (about 24" vs about 10" for XP30 for large size barcode) but the linear laser reader requires proper alignment with the barcode. The XP30 can read labels only in the range from 2 to 10" maximum but it can do it at any orientation to the barcode, including odd angles, highly increasing convenience.

If you are using only a PC based database, you may be well served by a non-portable barcode reader, also known as a barcode scanner keyboard wedge. Something like a Symbol LS 2208 may well be all you need.

Barcode labels. You can utilize a variety of barcodes that are already on the products you need to inventory, such as the ubiquitous UPC barcodes. Or you may have a more special case and will benefit from your own barcodes, in which case you will need to make your own labels or order them pre-printed. A wide variety of pre-printed labels are available for purchase, and a two-minute Google search will land a dozen of sites offering labels onto your desktop.

To create your own barcode labels you will need a barcode font and an encoding algorithm (for certain codes). It is not sufficient to just print your label using a barcode font. For example, our favorite, high density Code 128 includes a checksum digit and a start and stop characters. To be able to provide our customers with royalty-free software we chose to write our own barcode font and will  include both the font and the program that compiles the barcode strings with all barcode-capable databases we deliver. Printing your own labels on die-cut laser form sheets brings the cost per label to around $0.01-$0.02.