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 or Janam XP30 models that are no loger available, so we can't personally recommend the newer ones.

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.

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.