I haven’t written much about barcode labeling and QuickBooks so far, but I think that this is going to be an important topic of discussion as we move forward. So, today, let’s talk about printing barcode labels using the WaspLabeler +2D product from Wasp Barcode Technologies.
From a very simplistic point of view there are two aspects to working with barcodes:
- Printing your data (such as from QuickBooks) in a barcode format (in a report, or on labels).
- Scanning the barcode data to enter it in a program or database.
In relation to QuickBooks, we want to print data that we have in our QuickBooks database. Scanning, however, might not be restricted to just QuickBooks. For example, you might be printing barcodes to put on shipping labels needed by your customer, or product labels on the boxes that you ship.
A Very Quick Overview of Barcodes.
So you want to use barcodes in your business? Or clients come to you and say that they need to use barcodes in their business? Let’s take a quick look at barcode printing technology to give you a starting point. This article isn’t a tutorial on barcodes – that would take many, many articles to cover.
How Will You Use The Barcodes?
That should always be the first question. How will you be using barcodes?
You may have a requirement to print barcodes in a particular format for your customer, such as on a shipping label or labels for the items themselves. Many larger companies have specific requirements as to the content, arrangement and type of barcode that you use.
You may want to print barcodes for tracking items as they move through your warehouse or manufacturing facility.
Perhaps you have a Point of Sale system that would work more efficiently if you can scan barcodes when you sell items.
Don’t worry about how to print barcodes until you determine what your need is, and what requirements you have for the barcodes you want to print. What is the task you are trying to accomplish?
What Barcode Symbology Will You Use?
Barcodes can take many different forms, and each form may have a variety of options. The collection of rules for creating a barcode is referred to as the “Symbology”. Some barcodes allow only numeric characters. Others allow upper and lower case letters, numbers and special symbols. Some have built in error checking features, some are simple. Some are better than others at providing detailed information in a small amount of space.
Here are a few common samples (there are many more than I’m showing here). In some samples the actual text value will print below the barcode.
Code 39 is a very commonly used and simple barcode. It has variations that will allow you to use upper/lower case letters, numbers and special symbols.
Code 128 is used widely in inventory control and shipping situations. It has similar characteristics as Code 39 but can create slightly more compressed barcodes.
UPC-A is one of several similar barcodes used in retail environments. There are several variations, and some similar barcodes that would be used if you are working with the European community.
Postnet is used for USPS mailing applications.
QR Codes are a relatively new symbology, used extensively in advertising to provide web site URL’s to smartphone and tablet users. This is a “two dimensional” code used to convey a large amount of information in a small space.
The choice of the symbology you will use depends on the requirements of the person who will do the scanning, the type of application you will be using, and the content of the information you will be including in the barcode. Your customer may specify a particular symbology to use. Some kinds of barcodes can’t accommodate certain kinds of data, such as lower case letters or symbols. Length of information is important – you wouldn’t use Code 39 to hold long web site URLs.
Another requirement to consider is what type of scanning hardware will be used. You’ll often find that scanners can only work with certain barcode symbologies, so you need to understand the hardware requirements as well.
Printing Barcodes with WaspLabeler +2D
The WaspLabeler +2D product from Wasp Barcode Technologies is a very flexible, low cost and simple to use barcode printing program. It works reasonably well with QuickBooks and provides many of the features that you would need to print barcode labels.
Installation of the program was very simple. One note – after installing I recommend that you click on the Check for Updates icon in the File menu bar, as you will need the latest version if you want to work with QuickBooks. I used version 7.0.2 in my tests, the earlier version that I was given originally didn’t handle QuickBooks data properly.
There are four tabs in the program that you will use to create an manage your barcode labels:
- File is used to manage the label file itself. Check for Updates is an important feature, particularly after you initially install the program. Example Templates has a number of different preformatted labels that you may find useful as a starting point.
- Design is a WYSIWYG label designer that I found to be very easy to use. You’ll add your fields and set their properties.
- Data is used to connect the label to a database.
- Print is where you will (big surprise!) print the labels.
Designing a Label
Clicking on the Example Templates button in the File tab opens a list of preformatted labels that you can work with. There are a number of labels already prepared for working with QuickBooks data, such as the shipping label shown here.
The Design tab provides a reasonable number of options for adding elements to the label. You can add text, graphic figures, imported pictures and (of course) barcode fields.
If you aren’t starting with one of the built in formats one of the first things you should do is to click on the Layout icon in this tab. This allows you to specify the dimensions of the label. There are formats already set up for a variety of labels (a long list of standard Avery labels for example).
When you drag a barcode field onto the form you see the properties on the right side. There are three tabs in the properties pane. The barcode tab is where you can select the barcode symbology to use. The properties will vary depending on the symbology. For example, with Code 39 as shown here, you can control if there is a check digit.
Connecting to Data
On the Data tab you will select the database to connect to the label form. Note that you do not HAVE to connect to a database, you can use this program to design a “static” label that has the same information on all copies (such as printing return address labels).
The program has an excellent range of choices for data sources, not limited to just QuickBooks.
If you select QuickBooks as a data source you want to have the QuickBooks company file open with the Admin password, the first time that you use this program with a company file. QuickBooks will display a security screen asking if it is OK for the program to access the data (this is true for all SDK based add-on programs).
When I first saw the list of QuickBooks tables that the program can work with I was dismayed. It’s a short list! And the Item List isn’t included!
However, they do provide access to much more data than what is shown here. I have no idea why this particular screen shows so few tables (an earlier version listed more, but that version didn’t work properly).
The program now displays the data, with a dropdown for the table at the upper left, and a list of the fields you can work with on the right.
The tables that are supported are: Account, Bill, Check, Credit Memo, Customer, Customer Bill Address, Customer Ship Address, Customer Type, Employee, Estimate, Invoice, Item List (split into different tables by type), Job Type, Line Item, Line Item Group, Other Name, Payment Method, Payroll Item Wage, Purchase Order, Sales Receipt, Sales Rep, Sales Tax Code, Ship Method, Vendor, Vendor Address, Vendor Credit, Vendor Type.
There are a couple of shortcomings here. I didn’t do a comprehensive review, but some fields and tables are missing. Two important examples would be the manufacturer’s part number in the Inventory Part table (very important in some cases) and the lack of custom fields. I can understand why custom fields aren’t there, because they are handled in a very odd way in QuickBooks. However, not having them for the item list is a serious drawback for some people.
I didn’t explore the ODBC data source – if you have Enterprise you have access to two QuickBooks ODBC data sources, and that would let you get to more data (you can purchase an ODBD driver if you are using Pro or Premier).
To connect your barcode field to a data source field you go back to the Design tab and click Content in the properties window. Click the database button and select the field from the dropdown list.
The field names they provide here are straight from the QuickBooks SDK. Do you understand the difference between the Name and FullName fields? It can be a bit confusing (Name is the lowest level name, FullName includes the higher levels if this is a subitem of another item).
The Data tab has some sophisticated tools for sorting, filtering, and creating “joins” between data tables (a more complicated process).
Go to the Print tab to see a preview of the label on the page, and to print it. This preview will include the data from your data source. Oops! “Invalid barcode value”?
This highlights one of the issues you have when selecting a barcode symbology to match the data you are printing. I selected Code 39, but I didn’t check the extended box, which allows for lower case letters. My fault! Once I select the proper options, my barcodes appear.
Here’s what the QuickBooks Item Label sample template looks like, using Code 128 and the item Name field
I did run into a problem with the program at the beginning of my test, and I submitted a support request via their website. I received an answer (which solved the problem) via email within just an hour of submitting my request. Very good!
Their website states that they provide free, unlimited tech support.
The product supports a wide variety of barcodes (including several 2D barcodes), including AztecCode, Codabar, Code 128, Code 39, Code 93, DataMatrix, EanJan13, EanJan8, Interleaved2of5, Isbn, Itf14, MaxiCode, MicroPDF417, MicroQRCode, Msi, PDF417, Postnet, QRCode, GS1, GS1Stacked, GS1Omnidirectional, GS1Truncated, GS1Expanded, GS1Limited, UCCEAN128, UPC-A, UPC-E, DataMatrix, MaxiCode, MicroPDF, MicroQRCode, PDF417, Aztec Code and QRCode.
You don’t need a special barcode printer, it supports any laser, dot matrix, thermal or ink jet printer that uses a standard Windows printer driver.
It works with QuickBooks Windows Desktop products from 2008 and later. This is a QuickBooks SDK based product. I didn’t see any information on non-US version support, but I would expect that it would work with most current versions (but try it first). A demo/trial copy is available through their website.
At this time pricing is a low $149.00 for a single user license, with options for a 5 user, 10 user and unlimited user license.
I Like It!
For the price, this is a great barcode labeling product:
- Easy to use designer.
- Flexible layouts for label format.
- Lots of barcode symbologies.
- Good technical support (based on my one incident).
- Access to many QuickBooks tables.
- Support for a variety of data sources.
It isn’t perfect:
- It doesn’t support ALL fields that are available from QuickBooks.
- Field names can be a bit cryptic.
- It has just the basic tables, no “generated” tables that combine tables. For instance, if you want labels for the lines of an invoice, along with information from the invoice header, you have to create your own “join” for the tables. This can be tricky in some cases. You can do it, but it might not be simple
If you need to print barcodes from QuickBooks data this is worth looking at. However, you need to define what exactly you want to print first, so that you can try the trial product to determine if it can do what you want.