Review: Barcode Producer 6

Apparent Corporation released the newest version of its flagship barcode creator, Barcode Producer 6. With the new version, Barcode Producer proves it’s the only barcode creation tool that is a perfect fit for graphic and layout designers.

Apparent couldn’t add many new strictly barcode orientated features, as Barcode Producer already covers most known barcodes in use. In addition to some new barcode symbologies, the developer therefore added more features that will greatly appeal to layout and graphic designers.

In terms of practical functionality, Barcode Producer 6 now gives the user the capability to add custom text above barcodes. This is great if you want to add a price or some kind of information that is not really part of the barcode specification you’re dealing with.

A Favorites list must make the selection of often used barcodes faster. Personally, I think this new features is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. If you’re a designer working for many different clients, chances are that you won’t have a use for Favorites anyway.

The creation of Barcode Reports is quite useful — it turns out you must have a barcode editor open, and then the feature becomes available in the File menu. As far as I know the feature isn’t covered in the Help file, but in essence these reports create detailed “quick check” reports of barcodes for client portfolios.

A special “Copy Vector” menu option allows you to copy barcodes to the clipboard and paste them in vector format into Illustrator, QuarkXPress, InDesign, and other design applications. Very useful addition, especially as there’s a nice shortcut to deal with these. Another nice new feature is the ability to send barcodes directly without any step in-between to Adobe InDesign layouts. I found it a pity this capability does not also exist for QuarkXPress — and I do know there are less QuarkXPress users than InDesign users.

I would have liked Barcode Producer 6 to gain support for more 2D barcodes such as Datamatrix and even Q-Code. Instead, Barcode Producer 6 adds BIPAD (which is a barcode targeted at magazines), and Codabar. These are useful too, of course, and since Barcode Producer is targeted at designers, their inclusion makes sense — perhaps more so than new 2D codes. There is also a redesigned asset tag generator that gives more options and control over asset tag looks.

A new check digit tool is especially useful when using the optional Automator plug-in. The new tool adds check digits to GS1 compatible barcodes, such as UPC-A, EAN-13 and ISBN. This makes the Automator plug-in even more efficient and effective than it already was. Extremely useful is Barcode Producer 6’s low contrast warning, which prevents you from printing barcodes in colours that lack the contrast needed for barcode scanners to easily scan the barcode in the first place.

In the barcode fine-tuning domain, Barcode Producer 6 gains an easy to use Code 128 character set selection, Code 39 full ASCII barcodes and more, but users must still manually fill in the GS1-128 application definers — in a Windows only application like Zebra’s Designer application, users can select the correct definer code from a (very long) list of identifiers, which I find to be quite effective.

All in all, Barcode Producer 6 contains a nice mix of new and improved features to keep the program at the top of the Mac OS X barcode capable applications market.