Tutorials/Tips

Generating barcodes with KBarcode

Sometimes alphanumeric text simply won’t cut it, and you need a bar code — mailing labels, security badges, inventory tracking, perhaps even URL-encoding for mobile phones. With KBarcode, you can use a simple desktop application to both generate and print several dozen different barcode types, on any sort of physical media.

Like you might guess, KBarcode is a Qt-and-KDE program, but it supports several different backends for generating the wide variety of barcode formats it supports. The backends include GNU Barcode, Barcode Writer in Pure Postscript, PDF417 Encode (which supports the PDF417 stacked barcode format, and has no relation to Adobe’s Portable Document Format), and the commercial (and proprietary) TBarcode from tec-it.com.

Between them, these backends support well over fifty different formats, from commercial standards like UPC and ISBN to postal standards like USPS OneCode to general-purpose formats like Code 39 and Code 128. TBarcode even adds support for a few 2-D formats, like Data matrix and QR Code. For those who are not familiar with the various barcode encoding schemes, the Barcode Writer in Pure Postscript site links to Wikipedia entries with background information on most of them.

KBarcode is packaged by most of the leading desktop Linux distributions, so it can usually be installed through the system package manager. It does have some KDE dependencies, however, so if you are running a GNOME-based distro you may find a longer list of packages needing to be installed to satisfy them. The only out-of-the-ordinary requirement is on an external MySQL database — this, too, should be easily installable, but if you have never before set up MySQL on the machine in question, you are in for a few extra steps.
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